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BJP-backed union decries government's labour reforms

All trade unions stick to call for nationwide strike on September 2

Somesh Jha  |  New Delhi 

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday tried to rope in dissenting trade unions for pushing labour reforms. However, the PM faced opposition from even the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh-affiliated Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh (BMS).

In Modi's presence, BMS leader B N Rai criticised the Centre and the Rajasthan government for initiating "unilateral" reforms.

Trade unions decided to stick to their decision of holding a nationwide strike against these reforms on September 2.

Inaugurating the 46th Indian Labour Conference (ILC) here, Modi said, "We are holding regular dialogues with labour organisations and going ahead in a tripartite forum. We need to simplify the complexities of the past. We will be able to do this only with workers' consent."

The Union labour ministry is clubbing 44 labour laws into five codes. Also, it has proposed several changes to labour laws; this has been strongly opposed by trade unions.

Implicitly asking trade unions to prepare for changes in labour laws, the PM asked them to not only look at the interests of workers, but also keep in mind the large numbers of unemployed youth entering the labour market regularly.

Just a day ahead of the beginning of the monsoon session of Parliament, the prime minister said though his ways of generating employment might be different, the intentions were the same. Modi referred to amendments to the Apprenticeship Act alone; he didn't directly name any other contentious labour reform such as the proposed industrial relations code, which eases retrenchment norms

The Union government will table the Child Labour Amendment Bill in the Monsoon session of the Parliament. Sources said the Union labour ministry will likely send the small factories Bill to the Cabinet and subsequently try to introduce it in the Parliament.

The small factories Bill exempts factories employing up to 40 workers from various major labour laws. The contentious industrial relations Bill will, however, not be taken up in this session as the government hasn't been able to build a consensus. The IR Bill would ease retrenchment norms and toughen norms to form trade unions.

Lauding the amendments, Modi said there were 200 million apprentices in China, 100 million in Japan and three million in Germany, while India had only 300,000, as industrialists weren't hiring them due to complex labour laws. He added it was an employer's social responsibility to employ apprentices.

The PM's comments, however, drew flak. "The government has taken some wrong decisions, which will affect labour adversely. The recommendations of the previous labour conferences have not been implemented; (there are) unilateral changes to the Apprentices Act and (in) allowing Rajasthan to amend labour laws," said Rai, president of BMS.

A look at the two initiatives at the Indian Labour Conference


  • To act as one-stop platform for job seekers/providers
  • Information on 3,000 options from 53 sectors
  • Career counselling and guidance
  • A call centre to address grievances
  • Links to service providers such as drivers, electricians and plumbers
  • Extending coverage of ESIC scheme to unorganised construction workers
  • Electronic health records for 80 million beneficiaries
  • Toll-free medical helpline
  • Colour coding of bedsheets in ESIC hospitals
  • Special OPD for senior citizens/physically challenged patients

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First Published: Tue, July 21 2015. 00:15 IST