With the aim to boost economy amid the lockdown due to emergence of COVID-19, several state governments have decided to suspend most of the labour laws in their respective state via ordinance. This has been done with an aim to give curb the effects of lockdown on Indian economy and provide employers with more flexibility to run their factories. This might give a much needed boost to the economy and benefit the employers but these have raised few concerns regarding the safety and Security.

The Labourers form the backbone of our country and therefore the Labour laws were put in place to protect the labourers from being exposed by the employers. Labour laws provide social security measures for workers and while these measures may help boost the economy, they have also raised concerns regarding protection of the rights of the Indian labour force.

The states which have suspended the labour laws include Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Rajasthan, Punjab etc among other states. The State of Uttar Pradesh has passed an ordinance called the ‘Uttar Pradesh Temporary Exemption from Certain Labour Laws Ordinance, 2020’ (“Ordinance”) and exempted from compliance a majority of the labour laws for a period of three years. Other States have issued notifications to grant certain exemptions under the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947, the Factories Act, 1948 and also extended working hours for a period of three months.

On 8th day of May, 2020 the UP government has suspended majority of the existing laws in the state. Some of the major laws not suspended are:

1. The Building and Other Construction Workers Act, 1996

2. The Workmen Compensation Act, 1923

3. The Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act, 1976

4. Section 5 of the Payment of Wages Act, 1936

The suspension of most laws is aimed at providing boost to the suffering economy and to attract Foreign Companies to set up industry in the state. However, many act which are suspended now is said to degrade the condition of labourers even further. Some of the suspended acts which can be a cause of fear are:

Minimum Wages Act, 1948 This act ensures minimum wages to both the skilled and unskilled labourers in the state.
Maternity Benefit Act, 1961 This act protects the employment of woman at the time of her maternity.
Payment of Wages Act, 1936 (Partially) This act ensures payment of wages to both skilled and unskilled workers.
Beedi and Cigar Workers Act, 1966 This act ensures protection of labourers working in tobacco industries.
Payment of Bonus Act 1965;

Payment of Gratuity Act 1972

These acts ensures payment of bonus and gratuity to workers working in the factories.

Points in Favour of Suspension of Labour Laws:

1. The Suspension of labour laws is necessary to revive the economy in the state that has come to the halt amid the lockdown.

2. The State governments claim it to be a necessary move to encourage new investments, latest infrastructures and new industrial activities in addition to boosting the existing industries in the states.

3. The Governments is of the opinion that this move will also generate employment for all those workers that are migrating back to their states as it will increase flexibility in employment.

4. The Governments also said that workers will continue to be protected of their basic rights as there are 3 laws still in place for them.

5. This move will help to re-skill the workers who come from different industry and wish to work in a new industry and develop the required skills needed to work in the industry.

Points in Criticism of Suspension of Labour Laws:

1. Several experts believe that this move will discriminate, exploit and harass the workers at the time of the pandemic.

2. The labourers will be deprived of social security and this will push the workers from formal Sector to informal sector

3. Various economist claims that this will widen the gap between male and female workers which is already very wide in India. This will lead to even lesser participation of female workers in the workforce.

4. The workers will be stripped of their basic rights and will get even lessor wages than before.

5. The Health of workers will be put to risk by longer working hours and lesser security. Also this will lead to no job security for the labourers.

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March 2021