Two controversial bills to amend labour laws introduced in Lok Sabha

New Delhi, Aug 7 : Amid objections by opposition, two controversial bills were introduced in Lok Sabha today to amend labour laws that seek to relax night shifts by women, increase the limit of overtime for workers and apprenticeship training for non-engineering graduates.

The Factories (Amendment) Bill, 2014 and the Apprentices (Amendment) Bill 2014 was introduced by Labour Minister Narendra Singh Tomar, both of which was cleared by the Union Cabinet last week. The introduction of the Factories Bill met with stiff opposition with Leader of Congress in Lok Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge alleging that the measure, which it will affect crores of workers in the country, was being done in haste and its introduction should be deferred as it had to be examined.

Speaker Sumitra Mahajan said she had allowed the minister to introduce the Bill by waiving the norm of two-day advance circulation of the copies to the members. She said that since it was only an introduction, members will have time to speak on it later. Parliamentary Affairs Minister M Venkaiah Naidu also said, “We can discuss the Bill at length later.” Maintaining that he was not challenging the Speaker’s decision to allow the minister to introduce the measure, Kharge said, “It is a big, comprehensive amendment and requires time for it to be examined and studied.”

Urging Mahajan to withhold the introduction, he said, “We can decide later on whether it should be taken up for consideration or sent to the Standing Committee.” The Speaker disallowed the Congress leader’s plea saying “you will get sufficient time for debate, you can also give your amendments” and then directed Tomar to introduce the Bill. The Factories Bill seeks exhaustive amendments to various sections by increasing the limit of overtime for workers from 50 hours per quarter to 100 hours per quarter, improving safety of workers and lifting relaxations on night shifts by women in factories.

“…it may by notification, after due consultation and obtaining the consent of women worker, representative of organisations of women workers and employers, and representative organisation of workers of the concerned factory allow women to work between 7 PM and 6 AM in such factory or group or class or description of factories,” the Bill said.

“The main objective is to ensure adequate safety measures and to promote the health and welfare of workers employed in factories,” said the statement of object and reasons of the Bill. The bill has been amended seven times, the last in 1987 when a separate chapter relating to hazardous processes was included. It vests the Central government along with the state government to make rules on several of its provisions. The changes also aim to prohibit pregnant women and persons with disabilities from being assigned to machinery-in-motion and reducing the eligibility for entitlement of annual leave-with-wages to 90 days from the current 240 days. The Bill also seeks to strengthen the penal provisions on contravention of provisions in the bill leading to jail term and hefty fine or both.