Parliament passes 3 key labour reform bills as Opposition stays away

Parliament on Wednesday approved three key labour reform bills that will remove impediments to winding up of companies and allow firing of staff without government permission in firms employing up to 300 workers. Thus far, only companies employing up to 100 people were allowed to do this.

Under the same law, no industrial worker is now allowed to go on strike without serving a 60-day notice. Thus far such rules were applicable to only those employed in public utility services like water, electricity, natural gas, telephone. Workers in essential services are required to give a six-week notice before any strike.

Rajya Sabha passed by voice vote the three labour codes on industrial relations, social security and occupational safety amid a boycott by opposition parties, including the Congress and the Left, over the suspension of eight MPs.

The opposition had written to Rajya Sabha chairman Venkaiah Naidu, asking that the contentious bills not be passed "unilaterally". "It will be a blot on democracy," wrote the opposition, which has been on the warpath since the Deputy Chairman of the upper house did not allow physical voting on the contentious farm bills on Sunday.

With passage of these three bills, 29 central labour laws have been codified into four broad codes as contemplated by the government under labour reforms to improve ease of doing business and providing universal social security to workers as well.

The three codes were passed by Lok Sabha on Tuesday and these will now be sent to the president for his assent. Replying to a debate on the three bills, Labour Minister Santosh Gangwar said, "The purpose of labour reforms is to provide a transparent system to suit the changed business environment.’’ The minister also told the House that as many as 16 states have already increased the threshold for closure, lay-offs and retrenchment in firms without government permission.

Participating in the debate, Subhash Chandra Singh of the BJD said there are apprehensions that this new code has diluted the provisions of the strike and has tilted the balance in favour of the employer. Supporting the Bill, RCP Singh of JD (U) said it is a win-win for both the employer and employee.

The Code on Social Security, 2020, will amend and consolidate laws relating to social security with the goal to extend social security to all employees and workers either in the organised sector or the unorganised sector.

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