Labour Laws vs. Labour

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FACTS

There are an estimated 139 million migrants labour within the country. It is predicted that due to the pandemic and the lockdown, about 400 million workers would be poverty-stricken. Most migrants within the country originate from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, followed by Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh. The cities of Mumbai and Delhi attract the very best number of migrants. While most men migrate for work, women migrate thanks to marriage. During the COVID-19 times, the Indian migrant workers popularly known as “DEHADI MAJDOOR” faced many difficulties.

Due to the lockdown being imposed throughout the country from the midnight of 24th March 2020, the lockdown restricted people from stepping out of their homes. As a result of which migrant workers were not able to earn their day-to-day wages which they were earning and because of no income from their daily wages they remain hunger for food, shelter throughout the strict lockdown. The industries where the migrant labourer’s worked failed to provide them with their necessities which point a finger on them. It is only after a few days of the suffering of the Labours the Government and various state governments were finally able to arrange few Migrant special Trains along with the food packet to travel with. Various NGOs and other helping organizations were upfront to help the migrant workers by providing them with the proper food, shelter, and other sanitizing facilities.[1]

PROBLEM OF LAW

  • Whether the labour laws in India need any amendment or not?
  • Whether there is a need to have strong provisions of job security for the labourer’s in Labour Laws in India?
  • Whether there is a need to have new provisions regarding redundancy/retrenchment compensation then existing one which covered only a section of labourer’s in India and not all?

TOOLS USED DURING LOCKDOWN TO MITIGATE THE SAME

POWER UNDER DISASTER MANAGEMENT ACT, 2005

The Home Secretary, MHA in the exercise of the powers conferred by Section 10(2)(l)1, In the capacity as Chairperson, National Executive Committee under the DMA[2] vide the MHA Order had issued additional measures which provided, inter alia, that each one employers (in the industries, shops, and commercial establishments) shall make payment of wages of their workers, at the workplaces, on the maturity , with none deduction, for the amount during which their establishments are under closure during the lockdown.

Within the backdrop of the movement of migrant workers in large numbers thanks to loss of income due to the closing down of establishments/factories during the lockdown period, the Central Government issued the MHA Order to limit the movement of migrant workers within the country to contain the spread of COVID-19 within the country. However, amongst other measures as per the MHA Order, the prescribed measure regarding payment of wages mentioned workers only, without specifying the character of the connection, which led to its wider interpretation and applicability being extended to differing types of workforces, given the time when it had been issued when several central and/or state advisories or orders were already in site.

CHALLENGING OF THE ABOVE ORDER IN SUPREME COURT

ARGUMENTS & CONFESSIONS OF STAKEHOLDERS-

A batch of petitions was filed before the Apex Court challenging the constitutional validity of the MHA Order. Among the petitioners, the Karnataka-based Ficus Pax Private Limited filed a writ petition challenging the constitutional validity of the MHA Order also as an advisory dated March 20, 2020 issued by the Ministry of Labour and Employment, because they violated Articles 14 and 19(1)(g) of the Constitution of India and, were in contravention of the principles of ‘equal work, equal pay’ and ‘no work, no pay’ by not differentiating between the workers so covered and people who had been working during the lockdown.

The petitioners submitted that in light of the pandemic and therefore the subsequent lockdown, many industries were unsustainable and already at the brink of insolvency, wherein payment of full wages to its workers would drive them out of business. By way of its counter-affidavit filed, the MHA submitted that financial incapacity (as claimed by the companies) may be a legally untenable ground to challenge the MHA Order.

SUPREME COURT PRONOUNCEMENT

On June 12, 2020, the Apex Court remarked that “no industry can survive without its workers and employers” and passed its order encompassing the interim directions, to be facilitated by the relevant state authorities and passed some interim orders to give effect to the solutions emerging out of the problems identified. But the answer to the question as incorporated in the title of the paper itself is still not answered by the Apex court also in its pronouncement.

ANALYSIS AND INTERPRETATION

To prevent migrant labourer’s from such hardships they faced during the lockdown within the future there’s a requirement to form amendments within the existing labour laws; Under the Constitution of India labour falls within the concurrent list and not within the Union list or State List in order that central or any government can enact the normal labour laws. Many labour laws in India just like the Industrial Dispute Act, 1947, which protects employees like redundancy/retrenchment compensation to employees just in case of termination of their employment, cover only a neighbourhood of employees and not all quite employees working within the sort of labourer’s as a results of which when anything happens these labour laws did not provide any job security to the labour and therefore the failure of this act and other acts which governs the rights and duties of labour classes or Unions in India also can be noticed within the recent report of International Labour Organization (ILO) that claimed that around 12 Cr.

People in India lost their job thanks to strict lockdown within the country and therefore the report of the centre for monitoring the Indian Economy also (CMIE) also claimed that around 12.2 cr. People lost their job during the lockdown period within the labour sector due to no provisions of any help for them in Labour laws. it’s not only the matter of enacting laws as per the present requirements but also the matter of enforcing them during a time-bound and strict manner, as current law already has certain provisions which if implemented strictly can help in effectively curbing labour problems. It’s rightly said that things got to be changed or need to be amended as per the present needs of society to run things properly and effectively.

During the lockdown period, labour laws were ready to protect only a neighbourhood of Labour Workers and not all thanks to which Supreme had to pass various interim orders to guard labour workers[3].  During the lockdown period, labour laws were able to protect only a section of Labour Workers and not all due to which Supreme Court had to pass various interim orders to protect labour workers.

CONCLUSION AND RECOMMENDATIONS

Labour laws in India falls in the concurrent list, it means that both central government and state governments have powers to make laws on labour subject. As a result of this, any amendments in the labour laws passed by the central government were not liked by the state governments and vice- versa which make the process of bringing out reforms in the labour laws at a slow pace.

Another aspect of labour laws in India is that they only covered a section of labour workers in India and not all as a result of which whenever any problem falls upon the labour sector in India (like during the lockdown period), conditions of most labour get worst, while only a few labour get benefitted due to labour laws. We all hope that the concerned authority must have identified the problems and it’s time for them to wake up and act in order to safe million lives from future mis-happenings.


[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Indian_migrant_workers_during_the_COVID-19_pandemic.

[2] Disaster Management Act, 2005 (“DMA”)

[3] https://www.globallegalinsights.com/practice-areas/employment-and-labour-laws-and-regulations/india.

Written By

Parth Bindal

Law Student, School of Law, UPES

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