The government on Tuesday succeeded in getting one of the laws in its labour law reform kitty, the Labour Laws (Exemption from Furnishing Returns and Maintaining Registers by Certain Establishments) Amendment Bill, 2011, passed in the Rajya Sabha, with the Congress supporting the Bill.
The Left parties, the Trinamool Congress (TMC) and Janata Dal (United), or JD(U), opposed the Bill terming it "anti-labour and not labour reform". TMC's D Bandopadhyay termed the Bill "draconian".
The Bill increases the number of laws under which units and small establishments will be exempt from maintaining registers and filings returns. It also redefines "small establishment" to mean a unit employing between 10-40 people. (The original Act capped the limit at 19 workers.)
The Bill will now have to be moved in the Lok Sabha.
Moving the Bill in the post-lunch session, Labour Minister Bandaru Dattatreya said the main purpose of the amendment is simplification of laws. "Transparency, accountability and enforcement will be taken care of. The workers' interests will also be taken care of," said the minister. Even as the Left parties objected to the minister saying there was consensus among trade unions on the move, the minister insisted it was aimed at making procedures simpler for establishments.
Congress' Madhusudan Mistry, a trade unionist himself, spoke out against the Bill, which according to him would "hamper the interests of labourers and workers". He, however, conceded his party was supporting the Bill.
Bahujan Samaj Party's Satish Chandra Mishra pointed out that the Bharatiya Janata Party had opposed the Bill while in Opposition but was now clearing it.
JD (U)'s K C Tyagi reminded the Treasury benches how during the former National Democratic Alliance government under A B Vajpayee, the then labour minister Sharad Yadav had ensured that any Bill which would hamper workers' interest was kept in cold storage.
Yadav said, "Foreign investors are wary of labour laws and so this government which is keen to bring in FDI (foreign direct investment) is sacrificing the interests of poor workers."
Tapan Kumar Sen of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) attacked the government for amending the law and increasing the number of workers under those defined as small units to 40. He said this would amount to 71 per cent of workers being thrown out of the ambit of protection of laws. "This is betrayal of workers and the working class," he said.
Samajwadi Party's Vishambhar Prasad Nishad, too, opposed the Bill arguing it would only favour the contractors and businessmen and there were no welfare measures.
"The government is anti-labour. This government is following the footsteps of the previous government, which drafted this Bill in 2011," he said.