The road ministry has removed an irritant to tabling the Code on Wages in Parliament as it has agreed to the broad definition of construction worker for the highway sector. Earlier the government was grappling with the distinction between construction and highway workers.
With the road ministry’s agreement, a highway worker will be entitled to the same benefits and allowances given to a construction worker under the new Bills. The revised Code on Wages can now be tabled in Parliament. The proposed legislation is expected to benefit over 40 million employees across the country.
The new Code on Wages tries to ensure minimum wages to all and timely payment of wages to all employees, irrespective of the sector of employment and without any wage ceiling. At present, the central government has fixed a minimum daily wage of Rs 558 for a construction worker in the central sector and the amount varies from state to state. The Bill will empower the Centre to set a minimum daily wage across all sectors, and the states will have to maintain that level.
“Earlier there was no clarity on the difference between a construction worker and a highway construction worker. But we have now decided to define highway worker as a construction worker,” a senior road ministry official said.
Under the Code on Wages, the benefits and allowances for a construction worker would also apply to a highway worker, he said.
It subsumes four existing laws - the Minimum Wages Act, 1948; the Payment of Wages Act, 1936; the Payment of Bonus Act, 1965; and the Equal Remuneration Act, 1976.
In September 2017, the Union Cabinet approved the Code on Wages Bill, 2017, which is essentially an amalgamation of 38 Labour Acts by framing four labour codes – Codes on Wages, Codes on Industrial Relations, Code on Social Security, and Code on Occupational Safety, Health and Working Conditions.
After the enactment of the Code on Wages, all these four Acts will get repealed, removing the multiplicity of definitions and authorities, leading to ease of compliance without compromising wage security and social security to the workers.
Currently, the provisions of the Minimum Wages Act and the Payment of Wages Act do not cover substantial number of workers, as the applicability of both these Acts is restricted to the Scheduled Employments/Establishments.