Workers’ Unions Oppose Extension of Factory Working Hours in Karnataka

farmers protest
Representative Image [FILE IMAGE]

It was on Friday, May 22 that the government of Karnataka issued a notification wherein it allowed all factories in the state to extend the working hours up to 10 hours per day and 60 hours per week for the next three months. This moves came at a juncture when various states in the country are raising their labour laws and several pro-industry labour reforms have been issued in the last couple of weeks. 

These revisions to the already existing labour laws is being seen as overtly in favour of industries and in complete negation of the wellbeing of workers. Many trade unions throughout the country are arguing that the notification issued by the Karnataka government is illegal and would delay the recovery of the economy.

The state’s labour department issued a notification wherein it said, “In exercise of powers conferred under Section 5 of Factories Act, 1948, the Government of Karnataka is pleased to order that all factories registered under the Factories Act, 1948 shall be exempted from the provisions of Section 51(weekly hours) and Section 54(daily hours, and with effect from 22-05-2020 to 21-8-2020.”

This notification was issued under Section 5 of the Factories Act that allows the government to make changes in emergency situations for a maximum of three months. Many trade unions have asserted that the changes were issued by the government without consulting them and is seen by many as an alleged move towards the further dilution of the existing labour laws.  

They claim that the notification is illegal and violates the conventions of the International Labour Organisation(ILO) and claim that such a step would only delay the recovery of the economy.

Before the government of Karnataka, three other BJP ruled states namely Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat and two Congress ruled states namely Punjab and Rajasthan had increased the daily working hours in all factories to 12 hours. 

The governments of Uttar Pradesh and Gujarat have recently also issued ordinances exempting crucial labour laws except a select few provisions related to minimum wages and safety conditions. These ordinances have got clearance from the governors of the state and have been sent for approval to the President of India. Madhya Pradesh government also allowed factories to hire and fire employs at will among a set of labour reforms.