The Maharashtra government is once again facing stiff opposition from all the major labour unions active in Maharashtra to its reported moves to amend the Industrial Disputes Act 1947. The BJP government of Maharashtra had started pushing for amendment to ID Act in 2015, but they have been unsuccessful so far. The Maharashtra government has again proposed an amendment that would make it easier for factories with less than 300 workers to close down their factories or lay off workers without prior permission of the state government.
At present, only factories that have less than 100 workers are not required to seek permission before closure or lay-off. It is reported that out of approximately 37000 factories governed under this Act in Maharashtra, employing around 25.16 lakh workers, 32000 factories, i.e. 87% have less than 100 workers and hence do not need government permission. Thus already a huge chunk of workers of Maharashtra do not have protection against unbridled closures and lay-offs, which are some of the main reasons for lakhs of workers thrown out from factories on a regular basis. This is also why a very large chunk of the labour force is forced to accept contract worker status with economic hardship and job uncertainty. If the proposed amendment becomes a law, approximately 5.84 lakh more workers, employed in approximately 3400 factories, will lose protection against closures and lay-offs; only 1365 factories, employing approximately 11 lakh workers, will need government permission for closures and lay-offs. Thus, more than 95% of factories and more than 55% of workers employed will lose the protection.
To soften the blow, one of the amendments is proposing to pay a compensation for every retrenched worker which is 3 times the compensation payable currently. However, we are fully aware that it is almost impossible to get compensation even under current circumstances since capitalists know how to dodge such payments by forcing the workers to sweat it out in industrial courts. Workers are not beggars! They do not beg for compensation. They want an honorable permanent employment which will guaranty a secure and honorable livelihood for them and their families.
One of the justifications given by the government is that such an amendment will encourage the factories to employ more permanent workers instead of contract workers, since after the amendment those factories with less than 300 workers do not need government permission for closure and lay-offs! What a crooked justification! Which capitalist will ever think of employing permanent workers when he can employ contract workers?
The Central government and various state governments are dancing to the tune of capitalists who are aggressively pushing for amendments to various labour laws. It is not that the current labour laws are giving great protection to workers, but the capitalists are pushing for amendments which will deprive more and more workers of their hard won rights. The extent to which the Central government and various State governments are towing the line of capitalists becomes clear if one just reads some published documents of various capitalist bodies and notes the stand various governments have been taking. A case in point is the document published by the FICCI (an organization of various capitalist groups of India) in 2014 entitled “Suggested Labour Policy Reforms”. Amendments made to the ID Act by the governments of Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan and justifications given in support of those amendments are exactly same as mentioned in the FICCI document. Same is the case with the amendments proposed by the Maharashtra Government.
The proposed amendments thus clearly constitute a major attack on workers’ rights. Various governments are pushing for amending many labour laws. It is extremely necessary and important that all workers unitedly oppose all such attempts irrespective of which unions they belong to.