Labour Bill passed in Gujarat Assembly as Congress walks out

A bill aimed at reforming labour laws, was passed in the Gujarat Assembly on Wednesday after Congress MLAs walked out protesting against the bill, claiming it to be "pro-industry" and "anti-labour".

Gandhinagar: A bill aimed at reforming labour laws, was passed in the Gujarat Assembly on Wednesday after Congress MLAs walked out protesting against the bill, claiming it to be "pro-industry" and "anti-labour".

The BJP-led state government tabled the 'The Labour Laws (Gujarat Amendment) Bill, 2015' in the House for its approval.

The Bill aims to amend certain provisions in labour laws applicable in Gujarat, including the Industrial Disputes Act 1947, Minimum Wages Act 1948, Factories Act, Contract Labour Act and Employees' Compensation Act, among others.

One amendment in the bill proposes to introduce a "compromise" formula between industry and labour in case of any dispute.

While presenting the bill in the House, Gujarat state Labour and Employment Minister Vijay Rupani stated that Gujarat would become the first state to introduce the provision where both parties could end their dispute through a compromise, called "compounding of offences".

"This provision will reduce unnecessary and endless litigations, as court cases go on for years. Thus, we want to introduce a system where labourers can arrive at compromise with the employer without approaching court," Rupani said in his speech.

"For this, government will charge up to Rs 21,000 as penalty from the employer and give 75 percent of that penalty money to the affected employee or employees. This will bring quick solutions and reduce burden on courts," Rupani said.

However, senior Congress MLA Shaktisinh Gohil took strong objection to this amendment in labour laws and asked the minister to withdraw it. "Labour laws are created to infuse a sense of fear among employers, that if they will break it, they would face a criminal case. But this new provision will encourage them to break the law and get away with it by paying only Rs 21,000. Why does the government not want industrialists to be prosecuted and let them go easily," Gohil asked during his speech.

Gohil alleged that the maximum fine of Rs 21,000 is a very small amount for industrialists to pay.

"The Supreme Court said that it is compulsory to pay minimum wage. If you violate this order, you will have to face a criminal case. Now, the Gujarat government wants labourers to arrive at a compromise instead of knocking at the doors of the court. This is certainly anti-labour. We oppose this move," Gohil said.

However, in his defence, Rupani clarified that "compromise" would happen only if both the parties agree to it.

"We are not taking away the power of labourers. They can always file a criminal case if they want to. We are just providing an alternative formula, that too, only if they are ready. Otherwise, it is a misconception that employers will get away by paying money," Rupani said.

"As per our amendment, mutual compromise will be allowed for only the first three offences by the employer. After that, he has to face a criminal suit," Rupani said.

However, Gohil and Congress MLAs were not convinced by his answer and maintained that this amendment must be removed from the bill. After Rupani refused, they staged a walkout from the House.

In their absence, the bill was passed without any opposition. 

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