NEW DELHI: The Labour Ministry introduced a host of reforms this year, including relaxing of laws to attract more investments but faced stiff resistance from trade unions who termed the policies as "anti-worker".
The ministry also managed to get two bills – Apprentices Amendment Bill 2014 and the Labour Laws (Exemption from furnishing returns and maintaining registers by certain establishments) Amendment Bill, 2014 passed in both the Houses of Parliament this Winter session despite widespread protest.
The new dispensation after assuming power, introduced a slew of schemes through Shramev Jayate (work alone triumphs) programme launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi who asserted that ease of doing business is "essential" to ensure that "Make-in-India" campaign is successful.
The schemes included portability through universal account number for Employee Provident Fund (EPF), single window portal to enable doing business with Labour Ministry and labour inspection scheme in central sphere.
Through the dedicated 'Shram Suvidha Portal', the ministry gave its nod to allotment of Labour Identification Number (LIN) to nearly 6 lakh units and allowed them to file online compliance for 16 out of 44 labour laws.
To put an end to inspector-raj, the ministry developed a transparent labour inspection scheme to check arbitrariness.
While units for inspection till now were selected locally without any objective criteria, now a computerised list of inspections is being generated randomly on predetermined objective criteria. Complaints based inspection will also be determined centrally based on data and evidence.
The Ministry also made it mandatory to upload inspection reports within 72 hours of inspection. Another scheme launched during the year was Universal Account Number which enables 4.17 crore employees to have their Provident Fund account portable, hassle-free and universally accessible.
The Ministry also introduced the "Apprentice Protsahan Yojana" to support manufacturing units and other establishments by reimbursing 50 per cent of the stipend paid to apprentices during first two years of their training.
Under the revamped "Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana", smart cards will be given to workers in the unorganised sector which will be seeded with details of two more social security schemes.
The ministry also managed to push through the Apprentices (Amendment) Bill, 2014 which was passed during last Budget session in Lok Sabha and passed during current Winter session in Rajya Sabha.
Similarly the Labour Laws (Exemption from furnishing returns and maintaining registers by certain establishments) Amendment Bill, 2014 which was passed by both the Houses of Parliament envisages to streamline the law by exempting large number of small establishments from furnishing returns and maintaining registers.
But despite government assurances that it would do everything to protect the rights of the workers while pursuing reforms to create more employment opportunities, trade unions, including RSS affiliate Bhartiya Mazdoor Sangh, upped their ante against the "anti-worker" polices and staged a massive nation-wide dharna unitedly in December and even threatened to go on a strike.
All the 11 central trade unions said that the reforms were pro-corporate and anti-worker and would give rise to low wages and negligible security cover to the workers.
Left parties like CPI(M) have already slammed the reform measures, saying the Modi government would continue to serve the interests of the employers in the name of labour reforms and its 'Shramev Jayate' programme meant "nothing much" for the working class.
The unions have demanded that the Centre should "desist" from the "unilateral" move to amend labour laws and it should consult and honour the views of the trade unions on all labour-related issues.