(Based on the excerpt from the draft of a booklet on the new Labour Codes going to be published by AIUTUC)
In Section 9 of Wage Code, 2019 the concept of floor wage has been floated. There is no mention of this in the existing labour laws. In the existing labour laws, there are three kinds of wages A) Minimum Wage: it is the subsistence level remuneration in absence of which workers will not be able to maintain livelihood with family. B) Fair Wage: somehow to maintain livelihood with family. C) Living Wage: With this wage workers can make both ways meet. The Fair Wage Committee of 1948 in its recommendation categorically said that there would be persistent effort by the government to reach the level of Living Wage as soon as possible. But the government policies in this regard have all along been directed towards opposite direction.
According to the Minimum Wage Act, 1948, all the owners and employers are bound to pay minimum wage fixed by the Central Government or the state governments to the workers engaged in different sectors of industry. In 1957, it was made mandatory for the employers. In case of violation of this provision, the employer would be liable to punishment. But it is known to everybody that a lot of employers do not pay the Minimum Wage fixed by the government. A few employers had to face legal action for this non-compliance. This new aspect of Floor Wage in Wage Code has been devised to free the employers from their legal responsibility to pay Minimum Wage. At present, the Central Government has fixed the daily wage of workers at Rs.178/-. Actually, it is nothing but Floor Wage. This Wage is much less than the wage fixed by government as minimum Wage. Here it needs to be mentioned that in 2017, the Central Government in order to determine need-based Minimum Wage had set up a 7-member committee under supervision of Anup Satpathi. According to the recommendations of that committee, the need-based daily minimum Wage of a worker would have to be fixed at Rs.375/- per day and monthly house rent at Rs.1430/-. The BJP government has never implemented this recommendation. This fact is enough to understand why this aspect of Floor Wage has been initiated in Wage Code.
In Clause (0) in the ‘Definitions’ part of Chapter-I of the Industrial Relations Code, 2020 and in Code on Social Security, 2020, mention has been made about Fixed Term Employment. There is no such provision in the existing labour laws. According to the provisions of this Fixed Term Employment, the workers and the employees will be engaged in job for a fixed period on a written contract of employment. Before its inclusion in Labour Code in 2018, the provisions of Fixed Term Employment have been passed in parliament and published in the official gazette. After the completion of the fixed period the worker will not be entitled to any rights and benefits accorded in the present labour laws. There is no question of permanency in this type of jobs. Workers engaged in such job will always suffer from insecurity. After the fixed period is over, what would be the condition and how would he maintain his family? The anxiety and insecurity to eke out a bare living will keep him away from joining trade union activities as he would not be regarded as a worker or employee as per existing definitions of the terms in law. Employers always wanted to have this type of employees and workers so that they could be kept out of the ambit of trade union movement and hence dispossessed of their right to protest or bargain. Hence this new provision would come handy to the employers in curbing trade union activities. With mounting unemployment and soaring poverty, even the highly educated youths would be forced to accept this type of jobs. The system of permanent employment or permanent nature of jobs will soon become a thing of the past. Thus, the workers and employees would be vulnerable to the ruthless exploitation of the capitalist owners and employers without any scope for protesting as the employers would be protected by the legal provisions.
In Section-62 of the Industrial Relations Code, 2020, it has been specified that the workers would have to give strike notice before 14 days. Without this stipulated advance notice, the strike will be unlawful. In the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947, there is no such provision except for the essential services. In other sectors, industry workers as per existing law can go on strike if the situation so warrants. They have lawful right. But the Labour Codes have been devised to rob the workers of their fundamental rights to strike. Thus, right to strike has virtually been made defunct and the workers will be prosecuted in case of violation of this new law. This is not all. If any conciliation proceedings in respect of any industrial dispute before a conciliation officer is found to be going on, workers would be precluded from going on strike. Naturally both employers and the government will try to lengthen the period of conciliation proceedings. Being trapped in this legal complication, the workers would be debarred from declaring strike. There is also another deterrent. If in any industrial establishment more than half of the workers go on leave, it will be construed as a strike.
In Section-77 of Chapter 10 of the Industrial Relation Code, 2020 it has been stated that factories employing less than 300 workers will not have to seek permission from the appropriate government to lay off or retrench worker and to declare closure. In the existing Industrial Dispute Act, 1947 (Section 25R), the stipulated number is pegged at 100 or more. By raising the number from 100 to 300 in I.R. Code, the government has empowered the employers with unrestricted right to lay off or retrench the workers. And at one stroke, 74% workers engaged in factories and industrial sector are robbed of the rights accorded by the law and they cannot even resort to legal procedure for redressal.
Not only that, in Section-28 (1) of Chapter-4 of industrial Relations Code, it has been stated that only in the industrial units where 300 or more workers are engaged, the provisions of ‘Standing Order’ will apply. But the industrial units where less than 300 workers are employed, ‘Standing order’ will not be applicable. Till now, wage fixation and determination service conditions of workers in all industries are done on the basis seeking workers opinion and through bipartite or tripartite negotiations. The ‘Standing Order’ is determined and implemented within the infrastructure of a given model. By raising the number of workers in to 300 or more in Labour Codes 74% workers will be deprived of their right to voice their opinion in fixation of their wages and determination of their service conditions. These will virtually be exclusive preserve of the employers.
At present, in the name of modernizing service, there is a spree of mechanization. This mechanization is not for enabling the workers to be free from physical labour as far as possible but is used as a pretext to retrench workers. Thus technological improvement is replacing manpower. For this reason, almost 74 percent industrial units and factories have been running with less than 100 workers. With this process on, the number of workers will further decrease in near future. When it is necessary to include the industrial units which employ less than hundred workers under the coverage of legal frame work so that maximum number of workers will be entitled to the rights and benefits accorded by the labour laws. Instead of that, the government is shamelessly acting against the interest of the workers and is in servitude of the employers who want to maximize profit by modernization of industries and retrenchment of as many numbers of workers as possible.