Union Minister for Labour and Employment Bandaru Dattareya spoke about labour reforms and the demands of trade unions in an exclusive interview to Rajya Sabha TV. He revealed that he is hoping to be able to bring in two labour legislations in the upcoming winter session of the Parliament.
Dattareya said that tripartite meetings are a must for labour reforms and that he has accepted 10 out of 15 recommendations of the trade unions, so their charges that the government is not on board with them are false.
He also clarified about the new Child Labour Amendment Bill, where it is proposed that children below the age of 14 will not be allowed to work but in exceptional cases they can work under a family enterprise during vacations and after school hours.
Here are some excerpts of the interview:
There is a perception that your government is anti-labour and pro industry?
Labour laws are old, they need to be revamped. Rational & functional laws are the need of the day. All labour reforms started during the UPA regime, thus lack of political will & pressures from the unions halted the process.
Your ministry has not been able to bring a consensus as far as trade unions are concerned?
Tripartite meetings are a must for labour reforms. PM’s flagship programmes need labour reforms. We need to increase technical intensive labour. Labour reforms are supported by trade unions, Ravinder Verma’s opinions are also incorporated in them.
44 existing laws will be subsumed into 4 categories, how will you codify?
44 labour laws are instituted through 4 labour codes, 4 codes deal with different labour laws. We will be able to modify labour laws through consensus.
But BJP backed organisations like BMS ( Bhartiya Mazdoor Sangh) are at the forefront.
BMS & other trade unions are on the same page. Out of 15 demands 10 are under consideration
Do you say trade union protests are politically motivated?
The perception is that trade unions protests are politically motivated, and we need to change that.
What are your plans for the Winter Session?
Two labour bills will be taken up in this session. I am quite hopeful we will also try to bring in the labour codes by which 44 existing laws will be codified and the ease of doing business will increase in India. These codes will help the workers as well as the industry.
Will the labour reforms prevent the casualisation of the workforce?
Labour laws are part of the Concurrent List. States can amend them. The contractor needs to register his labour before providing jobs. We want to uphold the interest of labourers & generate employment.
With regard to the Child Labour Amendment Bill, there are accusations that your government is trying to dilute the law.
Child labour below the age of 14 will be prohibited but children can help after school & during vacations. Adolescents will be prohibited in hazardous industry and the Child Labour Act will incorporate strict rules & regulations. Those who hire labour below 14 years of age will be severely punished
Do you have a mechanism to monitor the breaches if at all they happen?
The mechanisms are that a magistrate can employ people to monitor child trafficking & chid labour. Child & adolescent rehabilitation funds will be formed to which both state government & the Centre will contribute
What is the safety net for children working in the audio- visual entertainment industry, which is a highly competitive environment?
Children working in the entertainment industry will be monitored by the state government. Precautions should be taken to provide a cordial atmosphere, awareness, education & the technical know-how which helps in a child’s upliftment. The labour ministry will incorporate the reform agenda soon. Also, accountability & transparency will be hallmark of the labour industry.