The Narendra Modi government has raised concerns over the proposed ordinances by several states, including Uttar Pradesh and Gujarat, to temporarily abolish the labour laws, saying that states can't scrap labour laws in the name of reforms. In a letter to states, the Union Labour Ministry said that a few of the changes were against the International Labour Organisation (ILO) conventions.

Santosh Gangwar Labour Minister
Union Labour Minister Santosh GangwarPhoto Source: File/IANS

"It has been communicated to the states that complete suspension of labour laws is not in accordance with the Centre's commitment to ILO conventions. The Centre is committed to protect the interest of the workers. Reform does not mean complete suspension of laws," ThePrint quoted an official of the labour ministry as saying.

As per the reports, the Labour Minister Santosh Gangwar has admitted to flaws in the Inter-State Migrant Workmen Act and said that the govt will amend it to plug loopholes. He further added that the Centre is creating a national database of migrant workers and they will soon be assigned a unique ID.

With the labour ministry's objections, it is highly unlikely that the ordinances by the state governments will be approved by the Centre. The development has come days after the International Labour Organisation took up the matter with Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Labour unions objections

Labour unions, including the Congress-affiliated Indian National Trade Union Congress, left-affiliated unions such as All India Trade Union Congress, Hind Mazdoor Sangh, Centre of Indian Tade Unions, All India United Trade Union Centre, among others, had registered their complaint with the ILO. They had alleged that the state governments didn't consult with them before proposing the changes in labour laws, which is required under the ILO conventions.

Changes in labour laws by states

Several states, including the BJP-ruled Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Assam, have announced to relax or abolish major labour laws to attract investments amid the coronavirus pandemic. An ordinance by the Yogi Adityanath-led UP government has exempted firms from most of the labour laws for a period of three years. Similarly, another BJP-ruled state Gujarat has exempted companies from major labour laws for the next 1,200 days.

Shivraj Singh Chouhan-led Madhya Pradesh has given the firms exemptions from the provisions under the Factories Act, 1948 and from industrial relations laws. At least 10 states - Maharasthra, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Goa, MP, Uttarakhand, Assam, Punjab, Haryana, and Himachal Pradesh - have increased working hours from 8 to 12 hours. Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh later withdrew the order. Another BJP-ruled state Karnataka has exempted factories from labour laws for the next three months.