As several state governments initiate steps to amend labour laws to help revive industries, trade bodies in Karnataka have also sought relaxation in norms in view of the coronavirus pandemic and consequent nationwide lockdown.
In an interaction of various industry bodies, including Confederation of Indian Industries (CII), with state labour secretary Captain Manivannan, stakeholders raised the issues of non-payment of salaries to employees as well as inevitable layoffs and what action would that lead to.
Manivannan assured the industry heads that his department would not be issuing notices to organisations that are unable to pay salaries for April.
"No action will be taken against such companies. In case, there is a complaint, we will inquire if the company has the capital to make payments, if they do, through industry associations, we will ask them to pay their employees. If they are unable to do so, the matter ends there," Manivannan said.
Representatives from the food processing industry also asked if working hours could be increased to over 72 hours per week or 12 hours per day, in order to make up for the time lost during the pandemic, besides the increasing manufacturing cost for working with half labour force.
The department said it would consider these suggestions as it would help revive the economy. The secretary also said there would be a re-think on which other industries could be added to the list of essential services so that more industries could start functioning.
With regards to the migrant labourers crisis, the department said the "wishes of the migrants must be met". It also requested the various industries to dig into the funds of the building and construction workers welfare association.
"There is Rs 8,000 crore in this fund that can be accessed by the association and any worker who has worked for minimum three months is eligible for grants from this. The companies can avail this corpus," Manivannan said.
The Labour Fepartment also said that if industries can maintain and prove 100 per cent social distancing measures, they would be considered to work with full force, a letter with a recommendation would be sent to the commerce ministry to facilitate the same.
A request was also made for tweaking benefits under Employees' State Insurance (ESI) and Provident Fund (PF). However, as both fall under the central government, the state authorities have reportedly expressed it inability to make any amendments to the norms.
Several states, including Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat, have relaxed labour laws and have come under several criticism for giving in to further exploitation of labourers and their rights.
Meanwhile, the Karnataka government allowed garment units in red zone districts, but outside containment zones, to resume operations with one third of the workforce.
Chief Secretary TM Vijay Bhaskar in the May 8 order, said all recognised garment factories having an Importer-Exporter Code (IEC) and those registered with the Apparel Export Promotion Council (AEPC) can start operations with one third of the total workforce in red zone districts, but outside containment zones.
It said the permission is subject to following of the Standard Operating Procedures. At present, Bengaluru urban, Bengaluru rural and Mysuru are the red zone districts in the state.
(With inputs from PTI)