BENGALURU: For the next three months, factories in Karnataka can ask their employees to work 60 hours a week. The Karnataka Government on Friday issued a notification exempting factories from provisions Section 51 of the Factories Act, 1948, which caps the maximum work hours per worker in a week at 48 hours, and Section 54 which limits working hours to not more than nine in a day.
In what is being seen as the first step towards changing labour laws in the state, Karnataka has extended working time by 12 hours a week. The State Government has invoked Section 5 of the Factories Act to term the Covid-19 crisis and its fallout as a ‘public emergency’ to effect these changes.
The extended working hours have been notified only till August 21 since Section 5 prohibits any changes exceeding three months. The State Government, however, has notified new caps on daily and weekly work hours. “No adult worker shall be allowed or required to work in a factory for more than 10 hours on any day and 60 hours in any week,” said the notification issued by K Shivalingaiah, Under Secretary, Labour Department.
Labour unions are miffed with the government’s decision, more so for failing to consult them before taking the decision. “ When workers are already facing a survival issue, they are being required to put in longer hours instead of taxing the super-rich. This is nothing but a step towards legalising bonded labour. It is illegal,” pointed out Maitreyi Krishnan, State Committee member of the All India Central Council of Trade Unions.
‘Even Cong-ruled states have extended work hours’
“The eight-hour work limit came after years of agitations by workers. Section 5 is not applicable in this circumstance since it can be invoked only during external or internal aggression,” added Maitreyi Krishnan. While the notification says that Section 59 on overtime wages shall continue to be applicable, there is no clarity on whether the additional two hours of work will qualify as overtime.
Labour Minister Shivaram Hebbar told TNIE on Thursday, “I have convened tripartite meetings with industries and unions at least twice, but unions insist that working hours should not be extended beyond eight hours while industries are asking for 12-hour shifts. Even Congress-ruled states like Punjab and Rajasthan have extended work hours. The impression being created that the proposals are anti-labour is incorrect.”