The Karnataka government is considering relaxing laws governing minimum wages, increasing working hours to 100 hours per week from 72 hours, and easing compliance with key labour legislations to help resurrect industries.
In an hour-long video conference call on Saturday with members of the state chapter of the Confederation of Indian Industries (CII), labour secretary P. Manivannan said Karnataka can do better than Uttar Pradesh with its own “brand of reforms” to help industries resume operations after the covid-19 related lockdown is further relaxed.
The statements come at a time when state governments like Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh have decided to exempt businesses from complying with labour laws to bring back investments and help businesses start operations to make up for lost time and revenues.
The move by the three states had attracted sharp criticism by workers and trade union activists among others who said it would only add to exploitation of labour at the hands of the employers.
“We have been asked by the CM’s office to have a relook on minimum wages,” Manivannan told over 140 attendees.
He said the B.S.Yediyurappa-led state government is already deliberating on increasing weekly work hours and the state cabinet may take a decision on this next week.
Trade union activists who also attended the call said Karnataka first “bowed to the builders lobby and now before the industrialists”.
“When workers are deprived of food, shelter and wages, the Labour Secretary is assuring industrialists that no action will be taken if labour laws are violated,” Maitreyi Krishnan from the All India Central Council of Trade Unions said. She said these assurances were “blatantly illegal and an abdication of their duty.”
Manivannan said there will be an informal way to deal with complaints and that no labour inspector would visit factories for around six months. Some of the businessmen on call also sought to waive off the one-hour break between shifts to help make up for lost time on production lines.
He also said the government would issue an order allowing companies and organizations to resume operations with 100% capacity if the employer is confident of ensuring norms like social distancing.
Industrialists who attended the video conference sought to know if the government would relax ESI benefits, provident fund contributions and go easy if companies hold back salaries amid a fund crunch. He said no action will be taken against the company if it has a genuine reason for not paying salaries.
News Source: Livemint