The BJP-led NDA government may not table key labour reform Bills ~ Industrial Relations Code and Small Factories Bill ~ in the upcoming winter session of Parliament starting 15 December. The Bills, that seek to  ease factory closures and retrenchment, are ready but trade unions are opposed to some of its key provisions.

Fearing workers’ backlash against the labour reforms particularly after the implementation of the Goods and Services Tax and demonetisation, the government would not like to table the Bills in the winter session, said government sources. Labour unions feel the reforms will lead to industrial closures and rise in unemployment. Industry, on the other hand, has been waiting for the reforms.

They feel it will save companies the cost of keeping loss-making units running and encourage them to start a new business and set up more units.The government has reportedly promised the trade unions that it would not go ahead with reforms unless their concerns are taken into account, according to the Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh (BMS) which has been opposing labour reforms. Affiliated to the RSS, BMS is the country’s largest labour union. “We met Finance Minister Arun Jaitley last month.

He assured us that our concerns would not be ignored,” said BMS general secretary Virjesh Upadhyay. Going ahead with the labour reforms could also be politically risky as the government faces elections in one-and-a-half years.Under pressure from the BMS, the government may dilute provisions of the two critical bills, government sources said. Trade unions cite problems with the proposed Code on Industrial Relations that allows factories with up to 300 workers to close down without the government’s permission.

The current threshold limit is 100.  Trade unions feel that most industries will get covered under the proposed retrenchment rule if these labour reforms are implemented. “The size of a factory has become small due to technology replacing humans,” said Upadhyay.

The proposed reforms also debar outsiders from joining workers’ unions. “It will become difficult to form a union to protect workers’ rights. Normally workers are wary of openly taking part in union activities against their own company,” pointed out Upadhyay.

The government has been planning to introduce new labour reforms ever since it came to power. It has prepared five labour bills to replace about 40 existing Bills. The five Bills are Industrial Relations Code Bill 2016, Wage Code Bill 2016, Small Factories Bill, Shops and Establishments (Amendment) Bill and Employees Provident Fund and Miscellaneous Provisions (Amendment) Bill.