Industries cannot be forced to pay wages during lockdown: Chief of par panel on labour

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Industries cannot be forced to pay wages to their employees during the coronavirus-induced lockdown, BJD MP Bhartruhari Mahtab, who chairs the parliamentary panel on labour, said on Monday.

Amid the countrywide lockdown to check the spread of the novel coronavirus, the parliamentary panel on labour on Thursday submitted its report on the Industrial Relations Code, 2019, to Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla via online.

In its report, the committee expressed its reservations over payment of compensation to the workers in the event of closure of an establishment due to natural calamity.

“…in case of natural calamities like earthquake, flood, super cyclone, etc. which often result in closure of establishments for a considerably longer period without the employer’s fault, payment of wages to the workers until the reestablishment of the industry may be unjustifiable, the report said.

The panel sought clarity in relevant clauses so that employers not responsible for closure or lay off are not “disadvantaged in case of such natural calamity of high intent”.

Mahtab said the current lockdown is forced upon industries due to the COVID-19 crisis and, “they can’t be forced to pay wages for the lockdown period.”

The panel has also recommended that the special provisions in case of lay-off, retrenchment and closure of company, applicable to an industrial establishment having 100 or more workers, should be raised to 300 workers.

The Committee note that some state governments like Rajasthan have already increased the threshold to 300 workers, which according to the Ministry has resulted in an increase in employment and decrease in retrenchment, the report said.

The Committee suggested that the threshold limit of employees should be increased in the Industrial Relations Code itself.

Three members of the parliamentary standing committee — CPI (M) Rajya Sabha member Elamaram Kareem, CPI Lok Sabha member K Subbarayan and DMK’s M Shanmugam — gave their dissent notes as they were against the recommendations made by the panel.

India is currently under a lockdown to check the spread of the novel coronavirus, which has infected over 23,000 people and killed at least 718. The lockdown, which began on March 25, has been extended till May 3.

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