Lok Sabha passes bill to double overtime hours for factory workers
New Delhi: Seeking to boost job creation in a manufacturing sector and facilitate ease of doing business, the Lok Sabha on Wednesday approved a bill to double the overtime working hours to 100 in a quarter for factory workers.
The Factories (Amendment) Bill, 2016, which was opposed by several opposition parties, was passed after Congress and Left parties staged a walkout. Besides, Congress, the bill was opposed by Left parties, TMC, JDU and IUML.
Piloting the bill, Labour Minister Bandaru Dattatreya said the changes in the law would enable workers to "work more and earn more".
Contending that the bill will safeguard workers' interests, he said the total number of work hours in a day will not exceed 10 and total hours of work in a week after including overtime should not exceed 60.
"Overtime is only an opportunity. I have taken many safeguards. The proposed amendment is nowhere in conflict with the ILO norms and all provisions relating to daily or weekly hours.
Total number of overtime shall not exceed 100 hours in a quarter," Dattatreya said.
The current rules provide for overtime of 50 hours in a quarter, while the ILO provides for the upper limit of 144 hours.
Citing statement of objects and reasons of the bill, the opposition parties said the bill was being brought at the behest of the industry.
"The need for increasing the total number of hours of work on overtime in a quarter is based on the demand from industries so that factories can carry out the work on an urgent basis," said the statement of objects and reasons.
Dattatreya said the government is going with an innovative method in creating employment opportunities and large number of women workers will also get additional work.
"The proposal to increase overtime hours is not at all mandatory. It is up to the workers to decide. It is not compulsoru upon him or her. It is an incentive to get double wages," he said.
Among other changes, the bill also allows overtime of up to 125 hours per quarter in public interest and empowers central and state governments to exempt rules with regard to overtime working hours.
"There is no compromise on the safety and working condition of workers," Dattatreya said, adding this bill will facilitate an increase in employment generation in the manufacturing sector.
As members demanded to know what was the urgency to bring this bill when a comprehensive legislation is pending before the House, the Labour Minister said: "It was the need of the hour. We have taken the Make in India, Skill India and Digital India initiatives where a large number of workforce is needed".
He further said that the government will shortly come out with a comprehensive bill to amend the Factories Act of 1948.
The Standing Committee has already given its report to the Factories (Amendment) Bill, 2014, which is being considered by the Labour Ministry.
The bill also empowers the Central government, in addition to the state governments, to make exempting rules and orders in respect to total number of hours of work on overtime in a quarter, which would ensure uniformity, in its application by various state governments and Union Territories.
Trying to assuage concerns of members that state government rights are being taken away, Dattatreya said states are vested with the executive powers in the Act and ensuring the safety and health of working is the primary responsibility of the state governments.
Sankar Prasad Dutta (CPIM), while moving amendments to the bill, said its provisions were similar to one introduced in 2014, which was before the Standing Committee.
After Dutta's amendment was defeated in voting, Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury (Cong) said the "amendment can be voted out by number but you have failed in the argument."
Seeking reconsideration of the bill, he said, "It is anti-labour and it is biased towards employer."
Before staging a walkout, Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge asked the minister to withdraw the bill, saying a comprehensive legislation is pending before the House.
By increasing the overtime, "you are burdening the existing employees", he said, adding the bill should not be brought without taking into confidence the stakeholders like states and labour unions.
"It is not the main bill... In a hurried manner (you have brought this)," he said.
In the name of ease of doing business, liberalisation and Make in India, "labourers should not be exploited", he said, adding the provisions which are beneficial for workers "you have left that... If the cabinet is giving approval for 2 sections, why not for the other sections?"
P Karunakaran (CPIM) charged the government with playing in the hands of corporate sector, while Saugata Roy (TMC) said the bill was opposed by all the trade union including BMS.
NK Premachandran (RSP) said the bill was encroaching upon the rights of the states and was against the federal structure of the country.
Stressing that the bill is "anti-labour", Kalyan Banerjee (TMC) said the government is interfering with the federal structure very intelligently even as the Prime Minister talks about cooperative federalism.
"This is a new innovation to interfere with the federal structure," he noted.
Wanting to know who wants overtime extended under the law, he said it might be the demand of some industrialists who have access to the Ministers.
"At whose pressure are you bringing in the bill? It is really hitting the basic structure," Banerjee said, adding that no a single workman or trade union is speaking in favour of the bill.
Talking about certain provisions in the bill, TG Venkatesh Babu (AIADMK) said it is "unwarranted" and that the Centre should not interfere with the states' powers.
Such moves would destroy the federal structure and the federal rights, he added.
Wondering why the government is in a hurry to bring this bill, he said states have not been consulted. He also wanted to know why a comprehensive legislation is not being brought by the Centre.
Rabindra Kumar Jena (BJD) said the bill is a "calculated move to enter into the state's territory", adding that it is not a good precedent.
According to him, certain provisions of the bill would further deteriorate unemployment situation. Stating that working over time could result in increased consumption of alcohol, tobacco, obesity and depression among
Stating that working over time could result in increased consumption of alcohol, tobacco, obesity and depression among women, he said such a situation could become a major social
Voicing his strong opposition to the bill, Sankar Prasad Datta (CPM) said the Narendra Modi government, which has an hidden agenda, has been targeting labour laws.
Also, rights of state governments are being encroached, he added.
This bill is for corporate classes and big business houses of our country as well as for "satisfaction of Adani and Ambani", he alleged, adding that no single trade union is in favour of the bill.
Shrirang Appa Barne (Shiv Sena) said the government should look at giving more benefits to daily wagers and action need to be taken against companies that do not pay the stipulated wages for working overtime.
M Srinivasa Rao (TDP) also spoke.
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