NEW DELHI: Everything can wait until the Uttar Pradesh elections, so believes the NDA government at the Centre.
With the entire focus of the Centre shifting to the polls slated for February next year—considered the semi-final before the 2019 Lok Sabha polls—it has decided to stall labour reforms, which are drastically industry-friendly and “unpopular” with workers, till the elections are over.
A decision in this regard was conveyed to Minister of Labour and Employment Bandaru Dattatreya by the Group of Ministers (GoM), headed by Arun Jaitley last month.
“The GoM has conveyed to us that we have to go slow on reforms as it is unpopular among the working class because of its tilt in favour of the employees,’’ said a Ministry of Labour and Employment official. The ministry has been told specifically to put a brake till March next year.
“Seniors in the government seem to have an inkling of the unrest potential implied in the proposed labour reforms,’’ the official added. The major thrust of the labour reforms was to give greater liberty to employers for hiring and retrenchment in factories. Once the reforms are in place, companies need not seek prior approval for retrenching up to 300 employees in case of an emergency.
Other key reforms, the Wage Code and the Industrial Relations Code, are expected to make labour laws less stringent for employers. Similarly, the reforms allow women to work night shifts and shops to be allowed to stay open round the clock.
The GoM was formed towards the end of last year as labour unions had voiced their protest against the reforms.
Bhartiya Mazdoor Sangh (BMS) leader Brijesh Upadhyay had met Prime Minister and Dattatreya many times to convey the unrest among the workers regarding the reforms. “We have discussed the issues related to reforms several times. The higher-ups in the government have assured that they will not push it unless there is a consensus,’’ Upadhyay told Express.
Interestingly, the direction to go slow has come at a time when even the PMO directly written to chief secretaries of all states to pursue labour reforms.