Industrial Relations Code Bill introduced in Lok Sabha

New Delhi, Nov 28 (PTI) Amid vehement opposition by the Congress and other parties, Labour Minister Santosh Kumar Gangwar on Thursday introduced the Industrial Relations Code Bill 2019 in the Lok Sabha.

Congress and other Opposition parties were protesting against the bill while describing it as 'anti-labourers'. They demanded that the bill be referred to the parliamentary standing committee on labour.

Speaking about the bill, Gangwar said nothing in this bill is against the rights of labourers.

This bill is part of the government's initiative to reform labour laws by amalgamating 44 legislations related to labourers into four codes.

The Code on Industrial Relations amalgamates, simplifies and rationalises the relevant provisions of three Central Labour Acts namely Trade Unions Act, 1926; Industrial Employment (Standing Orders) Act, 1946 and Industrial Disputes Act, 1947.

The bill was approved by the Union Cabinet on November 20.

Meanwhile, a labour ministry statement quoting Gangwar, said 'the Code has been prepared after wide consultations with trade union representatives, employers' organizations and state governments'.

Contrary to the claims of the opposition parties that the bill is against the interest of labours, the bill rather aims to consolidate and amend the laws relating to trade unions, conditions of employment in industrial establishment or undertaking, investigation and settlement of industrial disputes, the ministry said.

Provisions are being made to have a two-member Industrial Tribunal, with second member being from administrative side, in place of single member Labour Court and Industrial Tribunal at present.

Further, the tribunal will be empowered to execute the award as a decree of a civil court, which will facilitate speedy disposal of disputes.

The bill also aims to impart flexibility to the exit provisions (relating to retrenchment etc), for which, the threshold for prior approval of the government has been kept unchanged at 100 employees, but added a provision for changing 'such number of employees' through notification.

'The reskilling fund is to be utilised for crediting to workers in the manner to be prescribed. Definition of fixed term employment and that it would not lead to any notice period and payment of compensation on retrenchment excluded. Vesting of powers with the government officers for adjudication of disputes involving penalty as fines thereby lessening the burden on tribunal,' it said.

Under the bill the definition of strike is proposed to be modified to include mass casual leave within its ambit.

The draft law also prohibits strikes and lockouts in any industrial establishment without giving notice of 14 days and also during the pendency of conciliation proceedings.

It also defines the expression 'fixed term employment' to mean engagement of a worker on the basis of a written contract of employment for a fixed period. The fixed term employee will get all statutory benefits like social security, wages, etc, at par with the regular employee who is doing work of same or similar nature.

The definition of 'worker' under the bill includes persons in supervisory capacity getting wages up to Rs 15,000 within its ambit.

At present, under the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947, definition of 'worker' includes person in supervisory capacity getting salary up to Rs 10,000 per month.

The bill also aims to provide for the obligation on the part of the industrial establishment pertaining to mines, factories and plantation having 100 or more workers to take prior permission of the government before lay-off, retrenchment or closure.

However, the government is proposed to be empowered to modify such threshold number of workers by notification.

It provides for a sole negotiating union in an industrial establishment for negotiating with the employer, on such matters as may be provided by rules.

The bill also provides for continuation of services of Presiding Officers of the existing adjudicating authorities.

Another feature of the bill is that 'reference by the government will not be required for Industrial Tribunal, except the National Industrial Tribunal'.

The bill also provides for penalties for different types of violations to rationalise with such offences and commensurate with the gravity of the violations.

It has seeks to empower the government to appoint officers for holding enquiry and impose penalty in certain contraventions punishable with fine up to Rs 50,000 and compounding of offences which are not punishable with imprisonment. PTI JTR ABI ABI ANU ANU