The Tale of Two Classes
“Reason has always existed, but not always in a reasonable form”- Karl Marx
These are the times of distress and discomfort where the entire world is tackling a pandemic together. Two months ago the Janta Curfew took place on 22nd March 2020 and since then, our country has been under a complete lockdown. Thousands of migrant workers have been left high and dry by governments without providing any means to sustain. Migrant workers from all over the country have been forced to move out of their workplace and travel back to their hometown. The workers, like nomads, are wandering across states and highways, with hardly any nickels in their pockets looking for food and shelter.
However, amidst the chaos, the Uttar Pradesh government decided to further aggravate the suffering of the penniless migrant workers. On 8th May 2020, the state government suspended all labor laws except three for a span of three years in order to lure industrialists and increase investment in the state. The meeting led by the Chief Minister, Yogi Adityanath was held late in the night where the entire cabinet gave nod to the ‘Uttar Pradesh Temporary Exemption from Certain Labour Laws Ordinance, 2020’. The state government stated that 35 out of 38 labor laws are going to be suspended for three years except for three laws that have been exempted from the ordinance. The three laws that will not be suspended are the Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act, 1976, the Workmen Compensation Act, 1923, the Building and Other Construction Act, 1996, and Section 5 of the Payment of Wages Act, 1936 which deals with the timely payment of workers.
The repercussions of the above ordinance are ghastly on the lives of the workers. The ordinance has been sent to Governor Anandiben Patel, for the procedural approval. The said ordinance has been under the radar of opposition as well as human rights activists. Therefore, I would like to draw your attention to the alarming consequences of this Ordinance:-
Suspension of Basic Human Rights- With major labor laws being suspended in the state, the government is free to exploit the human resources and create a scenario of anguish for the workers. Laws like the Industrial Dispute Act, 1947 which acts as a harness for all the workers have been suspended. This Central Act is the backbone of labor law which protects the rights of laborers and imposes a duty on the employer to protect the same. The suspension of the ID Act means a suspension of one of the most ideal methods of resolving a dispute that is collective bargaining. The Act allows the workers to operate in a healthy and stress-free environment. However, termination of those rights would further hamper the same.
Financial Distress- Another alarming consequence of the ordinance is that it would impose a great amount of financial distress on the already broken labor class. With the suspension of the Minimum Wages Act, Payment of Bonus Act, and Payment of Wages Act, the workers will be denied the pay that they actually deserve. Gratuity and bonuses have also been suspended thereby injuring the financial stability of the workers. As stated by Kashinath Mishra, a UP based labor law advocate in an interview with The Print, “How will workers ask for compensation and reimbursements, PF, etc. The majdoors will become more majboor”.
Deterioration of Working Conditions- The suspension of acts like Factories Act, Industrial Employment (Standing Orders) Act, Weekly Holiday Act which have laid down provisions for health, safety, welfare, and an adequate working environment for workers have also been suspended. This would result in an increase in unlawful and restrictive trade practices on part of the employer.
Disempowered Women Labourers - The suspension of labor laws like the Maternity Benefits Act and the Equal Remuneration Act which promotes the protection of pregnant women and provides for equal remuneration to men and women destabilizes the morale of women workers and creates harmful working conditions for them.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Anusha Bhatt is currently a 2nd Year L.L.B Student of Government Law College, Mumbai. You can contact her at- https://www.linkedin.com/in/anusha-bhatt-1649ba112/ msgConversationId=6644488186292727808&msgOverlay=true
Editor: Jayant Upadhyay
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