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Six states extend working shifts for labourers to 72-hour per week post-lockdown

The government says it is to ensure that companies can operate with fewer workers and reduce the number of shifts, while meeting deadlines.

SNS | New Delhi |

As India enters the third phase of nation-wide lockdown to contain the coronavirus pandemic, millions of workers face a return to longer working hours. At least six states have passed laws extending working hours from the currently mandated 8 hours per day to 12 hours per day. The amendment will allow companies to extend a factory worker’s daily shift to 12 hours per day, six days a week (72 hours) from the existing eight hours per day, six days a week (48 hours).

The government says it is to ensure that companies can operate with fewer workers and reduce the number of shifts, while meeting deadlines.

The Rajasthan government, which passed the notification on April 11 extending working hours for three months, says this would allow firms to run operations for six days with a reduction of 33 per cent capacity of “people passing through the facility”. As per the Rajasthan rules, the additional four hours will be counted as overtime. Other states that have passed similar rules include Gujarat, Haryana, Madhya Pradesh, Punjab and Himachal Pradesh.

The Gujarat government, which passed its guidelines on April 17, said wages for the extra hours will be in proportion to existing wages. The rules also say that workers must be given a break after six hours.

This move is said to be controversial, because 48 hours per week is what is mandated by global and Inernational Labour Organisation (ILO) norms. The first convention that ILO adopted was the Hours of Work (Industry) Convention, 1919 (No. 1) which India ratified in 1921 and it proclaimed 48 hours of work in a week.