Lok Sabha passes Factories (Amendment) Bill, 2016

New Delhi: Lok Sabha on Wednesday passed The Factories (Amendment) Bill, 2016 that seeks to increase the working overtime hours up to 100 per quarter.

The existing law permits the state governments to make rules related to the regulation of overtime hours of work.

However, the total number of hours of overtime must not exceed 50 hours for a quarter.

Now, the new bill passed by the lower house raises this limit to 100 hours.

With the new draft legislation, the central government is also empowered along with the state governments to make exempting rules and orders in respect of total number of hours of work on overtime in a quarter.

This would ensure uniformity in its application by various state governments and union territories, the Union Labour Ministry explained.

The passage of the bill, which was termed as “anti-labour” by many members of the opposition parties, was marred by a walkout by the Congress.

“By increasing the overtime clause you are only burdening the existing employees,” Congress floor leader Mallikarjun Kharge said before leading his party colleagues out.

Earlier, while the bill was being introduced by the Labour Minister Bandaru Dattatreya, Communist Party of India (Marxist) (CPI-M) MP from Tripura, Sankar Prasad Dutta, objected to the introduction of the bill saying the provisions of the bill were “similar to the bill introduced in 2014”.

The 2014 bill is now before the Standing Committee, he said, adding, in such a situation the new bill could not be introduced.

Revolutionary Socialist Party (RSP) MP from Kerala, N.K. Premachandran said the bill piloted by Dattatreya was encroaching upon the rights of the states and was against the federal structure of the country.

Dattatreya countered the charge and insisted that the bill was not against the interests of labourers as the International Labour Organisation (ILO) has prescribed the upper limit of 144 hours.

He said in no manner the bill would infringe upon the rights and powers of the states.

The Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan, however, overruled the objections and allowed it to be tabled and moved for consideration of the House.

The new bill also introduces a provision which permits the central or state government to extend the 115-hour limit to 125 hours.

It may do so because of excessive work load in the factory and in “public interest”, the Minister said.

Dattatreya said one important feature of the the law would be to enable workers to “work more and earn more”.

“Overtime is only an opportunity,” the Minister said dismissing contentions of a few members that this may lead to workers’ exploitation.

“I have taken many safeguards. The proposed amendment is nowhere in conflict with the ILO norms and all provisions relating to daily or weekly hours. Total number of overtime shall not exceed 100 hours in a quarter,” he said.

The need for increasing the total number of hours of work on overtime in quarter is based on the demand from industries, he maintained.

Among other changes, the bill also allows overtime of up to 125 hours per quarter in “public interest” and empowers central and state governments to exempt rules with regard to overtime working hours.

“There is no compromise on the safety and working condition of workers,” Dattatreya said, adding, this bill will facilitate increase in employment generation in the manufacturing sector.

The bill will also push National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government’s programmes like ‘Make in India’, ‘Skill India’ and ‘Digital India initiative’, he said.

The government will also amend the Factories Act of 1948, he said.