Union Labour and Employment Ministry told industry executives in a meeting on Friday that it is working in close coordination with the state governments to usher in labour law reforms to boost investment, even as the companies asked the government to take action against workers not returning to work.
Union Labour and Employment Minister Santosh Kumar Gangwar held a meeting with industry representatives to discuss their problems during the ongoing pandemic. Towards the end of the meeting, Labour and Employment Secretary Heera Lal Samariya told the industry that it is working on labour law reforms.
“The secretary mentioned about the labour law changes being proposed by the Uttar Pradesh (UP) and Madhya Pradesh (MP) governments. He said that the Central government is working closely with the States to help the industry,” an industry executive, who attended the meeting, said requesting anonymity.
This statement from the labour secretary holds significance as the MP and UP governments have recently proposed doing away with key labour laws in the state for two-three years and some of the changes will require the approval of the Central government.
Samariya, sources said, added that on its part the Central government will try to expedite the process of introducing the proposed labour codes which ease compliance burden for firms.
The Minister assured the industry that it is in touch with the Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSME) Ministry to help out the small firms which are facing cash crunch and difficulty in paying wages to workers.
“Keeping in view the difficulties being faced by the industry and liquidity crisis, the wages paid by to the workers may be covered under CSR (corporate social responsibility) fund expenses,” a statement issued by the labour and employment ministry on Friday said.
According to the statement, the businesses also demanded to “suspend the labour laws for the next two-three years, except the provisions like minimum wages, bonus and statutory dues, to help industry to come out of the present crisis.” Both the UP and MP governments have made proposals through an ordinance on similar lines.
The industry also sought easier classification of zones for starting economic activities. It said that instead of earmarking zones into red, orange and green, there should be two zones – containment and non-containment and industrial activities should be permitted in the former.
The Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) suggested to the labour ministry to “direct workers to join back to their workplace” by issuing a circular. “In case, the workers are not reporting back, they should be liable for action under the Employment Standing Order Act and Industrial Dispute Act,” it added.
In fact, the CII cautioned the government that it should not rush with the labour law reforms through codes “without addressing industry concerns” as the pandemic has led to companies re-designing its business model and working practices.