This week, central trade unions, including the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh-affiliated Bharatiya Mazdoor Sabha (BMS), might hold a joint meeting to discuss a course of action against the Rajasthan Assembly’s passage of the labour reform Bill last month.
“We will hold a joint meeting of all the central trade unions on Thursday or Friday and, after discussion, we will decide on the action,” said A K Padmanabhan, president of Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU), associated with the Communist Party of India (Marxist). CITU is holding protests across the country, opposing the Bills passed by the Rajasthan Assembly. It is also opposing Cabinet approval to three labour Bills.
On July 31, the Rajasthan Assembly had passed changes to the Factories Act, the Industrial Disputes Act, the Apprenticeship Act and the Contract Labour (Regulation and Abolition) Act. On that day, BMS, along with other trade unions, had demonstrated outside the Assembly.
As these Bills relate to subjects in the Concurrent List, the Centre, as well as states, can amend these.
“Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje had assured us of calling a meeting of trade unions two days after we had organised a massive rally in the state, on July 25. But the meeting hasn’t taken place yet,” said B N Rai, general-secretary of the BMS.
He added he had expressed his apprehension to Union labour minister Narendra Singh Tomar. “The central government has assured us it will not take decisions without holding tripartite consultations. The labour minister might call a meeting with the unions soon,” he said, adding the unions were waiting for the Centre to take up the Bills. Last week, the Indian National Trade Union Congress (INTUC)’s state committee had met and passed a resolution to condemn the Bills.
“Our central unit has also written to the President and asked him to discuss the issue with us before taking a decision on the Bills,” said Jagdish Raj Shrimali, president of INTUC’s Rajasthan unit. He added this month, the union would organise protests in every district headquarter of the state, every day.
According to an amendment to the labour law by the Rajasthan government, the state won’t need the Centre’s permission for retrenchment of up to 300 employees, against the current 100, by a company. Through another amendment, the Contract Labour Act will only be applicable to companies with more than 50 workers, against the current 20, while the Factories Act will be applicable to units with more than 20 employees, against the current 10 (in case of companies not using electricity, the amendment raises the limit from 20 to 40). Also, complaints against employers about violation of this Act will not be given cognisance by a court without the prior written permission of the state government, according to an amendment.