Modi 2.0: Codes on wages, safety to be first push for labour reforms

Topics Amit Shah

Amit Shah | Photo: PTI
Union Home Minister Amit Shah on Tuesday chaired a meeting with his Cabinet colleagues to discuss amendments to labour laws.

Labour and Employment Minister Santosh Gangwar told reporters after the meeting that amendments to labour laws in the form of four codes were one of the areas of discussion. Apart from Gangwar, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, Commerce and Railway Minister Piyush Goyal and Oil Minister Dharmendra Pradhan attended the meeting, which concluded in about two hours.

Sources said the government will push for passing two codes — the Code on Wages and the Code on Occupation Safety Health and Working Conditions — as a priority before taking up the other two codes. 

The other two codes — the Code on Industrial Relations and the Code on Social Security — may be taken up later after further consultations with industry and trade unions, the sources said.

The government has readied the Cabinet note for the Code on Wages, a senior labour and employment ministry official said. One major proposal in the code is to mandate statutory national-level minimum wage for different geographical areas to ensure that states do not fix a minimum level of income below the floor. 

The National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government in its previous tenure had proposed combining 35-odd labour laws in four codes. However, none of the Bills could be converted into a law. 

The NDA government has a majority in the Lok Sabha but not in the Rajya Sabha, which may be a key stumbling block for it. However, it expects to get a majority by the end of 2021, by when it can push for the labour law amendments which are contentious to labour unions.

“The code on wages and the code on occupational safety health and working conditions will be taken up on priority. We have had broad consensus on these two codes across the board,” said a source privy to the discussion.

Further, the labour and employment ministry is actively considering ways to implement the report of an expert committee chaired by V V Giri National Labour Institute fellow Anoop Satpathy which was submitted to the government in February.

The panel has suggested the national-level minimum wage for a worker in the country at Rs 9,750 a month (Rs 375 per day), based on a new methodology; the current minimum wage level is Rs 4,576 a month. Alternatively, it proposed a national minimum wage at various 
regional levels, depending on local conditions, in the range of Rs 8,892- Rs 11,622 a month (or Rs 342-Rs 447 a day) and suggested an 
additional house rent allowance for urban workers.

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