Workers highlight their concerns against the Four Labour Codes

Report from a correspondent of Mazdoor Ekta Committee

The newly formed central government has declared it will implement in the coming months, the Labour Codes which were passed in the Parliament in 2020.

The National Federation of Unorganised and Migrant Workers (NFUMW) has expressed its grave concern on this issue. The federation has pointed out that under these labour codes, workers are being deprived of rights which they have won through decades of struggle.

The NFUMW has raised the following concerns:

  • In the name of promoting ‘ease of doing business’, 29 Labour Laws, including 13 laws pertaining to different sectors of work, stand repealed.
  • Workers in Beedi making, Salt production and other sectors had forced the government to put in place welfare provisions through prolonged struggle. The Code on Social Security is silent on these welfare measures.
  • Social Security provisions such as ESI (Employees State Insurance) and EPF (Employees Provident Fund) do not cover workers in the unorganised sector. The working class has been demanding that all workers be guaranteed social security. The Code on Social Security does not provide ESI and EPF coverage for unorganised sector and migrant workers.
  • According to the Building and Construction Workers (BOCW) Act, all constructions of value Rs 10 lakhs and above had to pay a cess to the government. But in the Code on Social Security, only constructions of value above Rs 50 Lakhs will be required to pay cess. As a result, the quantum of cess collected, and hence the funds available for the workers’ welfare will be much less than before.
  • All the major decisions on social security will be taken at the Central level. Therefore, all social security entitlements won by unorganised workers in different sectors, under existing State Laws and Multiple Sectoral Welfare Boards functioning in Tamilnadu, Kerala, Maharashtra and other states are likely to be cancelled.
  • The Code on Occupational Safety and Health (OSH Code) does not cover agriculture workers, workers engaged in small constructions, homebased workers, fish workers and domestic workers who together account for over 90% of the workforce.
  • The OSH Code lists only 29 occupational diseases, whereas the ILO lists 107.
  • Construction is recognised worldwide as a hazardous sector involving accidents and occupational diseases. Earlier Central and State Rules had more than 200 Rules on safety in construction. Special safety provisions had been included in the BOCW Act. However, the draft rules under the OSH Code do not include any of these.
  • Without ESI benefits for unorganised workers, even the provisions included in the OSH Code are meaningless. Workers affected by occupational diseases will not have any means to ensure treatment, compensation and rehabilitation.
  • Under the earlier Contract Labour Act, contract labour could not be used in perennial work by contractors having more than 20 workers. The OSH Code will allow for contract work and fixed term employment in perennial work by contractors having up to 50 workers. Workers in large numbers will be denied permanency of work and gratuity benefits.
  • Registration of migrant workers in the source area is not included in the OSH Code. The OSH Code does not include any Welfare Plan for migrant workers.
  • Women’s night-shift work, hitherto banned under earlier labour laws, has been legalised in the OSH Code.

The concerns raised by NFUMW are entirely justified. They confirm what workers and their organisations across the country have been saying, that the introduction of the four Labour Codes is an outright attack on the working class of our country. Workers in the unorganised sector and migrant workers who constitute the bulk of the working class will be amongst the worst affected.

The Labour Codes are aimed at ensuring maximum profits for the Indian and foreign monopoly capitalists, through even more savage exploitation of the workers. While the Codes are yet to be notified by the central government, several state governments have already begun enforcing the working conditions specified in the Codes.

Workers in all sectors must continue their united struggle against the implementation of these Labour Codes.

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