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Labour codes empowering states to 'fix' workers time introduced in Lok Sabha

New Delhi: Aimed at entrusting more power to states to decide on policies related to workers, the government on Saturday introduced three important bills related to labour laws, including on industrial relations, in the Lok Sabha amid opposition from the Congress and few other parties.

Union Labour Minister Santosh Kumar Gangwar introduced the Occupational Safety, Health and Working Conditions Code, 2020, the Industrial Relations Code, 2020, and the Code on Social Security, 2020. The minister withdrew the three bills that were introduced last year and introduced the three new ones.

As per the bills, the codes would empower the state governments to make their own rules related to hiring, retrenchment and fixing work hours in their factories and establishments.

However, the codes would restrict the powers of the workers to form unions. Apart from these, the codes would ensure that the government extends social security to all, including the unorganised workers in a phased manner. As per the codes, the employer would be responsible for maintaining the health of the employees by providing healthy working conditions as may be prescribed by the Central government.

In every establishment wherein over 100 workers are employed, the employer would have to appoint such number of safety officers to take care of workers, it said.

"We have included 174 out of 233 of the recommendations of the standing committee on labour across three codes and they are being introduced again as they have undergone substantial changes," said Labour Minister Santosh Gangwar while introducing the Bills in the Lok Sabha.

The Union Minister further said, "Even the preamble of the Social Security Code has undergone changes in the fresh bill when compared with the bill which was earlier in the Lok Sabha but was withdrawn on Saturday."

"The government has held nine tripartite consultations, and 10 inter-ministerial consultations during the drafting stage of the codes," the minister said, adding that over 29 labour laws have been merged into four codes and that one of them –Code on Wages Bill, 2019 –has already been passed by the Parliament last year.

In the new bills, the method of fixation of minimum wage rates has been simplified and factors to be taken into account are skills and geographical location as against the present system of wage being fixed employment-wise.

Also, the number of minimum wage rate would be around 200 in the entire country as against 10,000, at present and in the central sphere, there would be only 12 minimum wage rates as against 542. The codes, if become law, also make it a must to revise minimum wages in every five years.

Gangwar noted that the government engaged in wider consultations over these bills with various stakeholders and that more than 6,000 comments were received online on the bills.

The leaders of principal Opposition party -- Manish Tewari and Shashi Tharoor -- opposed the introduction of the three bills by saying that these three bills are fundamentally changed versions of their earlier forms and urged the minister to withdraw them and hold wider consultations before introducing them.

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