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Rajya Sabha passes Wage Code Bill, Centre says major labour reform step

Our Bureau New Delhi | Updated on August 02, 2019 Published on August 02, 2019

The Code on Wages Bill, which according to the Centre sets a new course in labour reforms, was passed in the Rajya Sabha on Friday. The code simplifies and rationalises four Acts — the Payment of Wages Act of 1936, the Minimum Wages Act of 1948, the Payment of Bonus Act of 1965 and the Equal Remuneration Act of 1976.

The Code provides for all essential elements relating to wages, equal remuneration for men and women, its payment and bonus. It also deals with the definition of worker and employee and makes labour inspectors inspector-cum-facilitator. Just eight Opposition members voted against the Bill. The Centre got the support of the Congress, too, in passing the legislation pending since 2017.

Labour Minister Santosh Singh Gangwar said the process to prepare the codes was started during the AB Vajpayee government. Hailing the Bill as a major step towards reform, he said it will ensure gender equality in wages and the provisions will be helpful for millions of workers in the unorganised sectors as well.

However, the main contention remained the process of fixing minimum wages. The Opposition members urged the Centre to consider calorie consumption, inflation and number of family members while fixing the minimum wages. Gangwar said the power to fix minimum wages will continue to be vested with the Centre and State governments. According to the Bill, the factors to fix minimum wages shall be determined taking into account the skills required, arduousness of the work assigned, geographical location of the workplace and other aspects which the appropriate government considers necessary.

The Bill also provides for appointment of Inspector-cum-Facilitator who will have the same responsibilities as of a Labour Officer. The statement of objectives of the Bill says that the Inspector-Cum-Facilitator shall give an opportunity to the employer before initiating prosecution proceedings in cases of contravention, so as to comply with the provisions of the proposed legislation. The officer, according to the Bill, can advise employers and workers on compliance with the provisions of the Code and inspect the establishments as assigned to him by the appropriate government.

Standing committee

The House also rejected a motion to send the Bill to a select committee. Gangwar said the Centre has accepted 17 out of the 24 recommendations made by the Standing Committee on labour.

He maintained that a tripartite committee comprising representatives of trade unions, employers and State governments would fix a floor wage for workers throughout the country and said minimum wage will become the right of every worker.

Published on August 02, 2019
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