12-hour shift order withdrawn following Allahabad HC notice

The amendments made to the labour laws by various states have been causing unrest amongst the labour unions.

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The State Government of Uttar Pradesh has had to withdraw the 12-hour shifts order for industrial unit workers, following a notice issued by the Allahabad High Court. The order, which had been imposed to attract foreign investment and give a boost to economic activities, had led to a lot of disturbance among workers’ unions.

The Bhartiya Mazdoor Sangh (BMS) and various trade unions had disapproved of the order, and had refused to accept such major amendments in labour laws. The Uttar Pradesh government had brought in an ordinance seeking to amend all labour laws, except Section 5 of the Payment of Wages Act, 1936, Workmen Compensation Act, 1932, Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act, 1976, and the Building and Other Construction Workers Act, 1996.

Although the order for 12-hour shifts instead of the usual eight-hour shifts has been withdrawn, the recent amendments in the labour laws still stand. Uttar Pradesh had decided to suspend major labour laws for the next three years and relieve businesses from the scope of influence of almost all labour laws to help the economy recover faster from the slump caused by the pandemic and ensuing lockdown.

The Uttar Pradesh government had managed to dilute specific sections of the Factories Act 1948, earlier this month, to change the duration of working shifts from eight to 12 hours. As per its order, the payment for the extra hours of work were to be in proportion of the existing wages. This clause, however, had met with disapproval from the trade unions who maintained that any overtime deserved double the wages.

The governments of Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh had also made amendments to their labour laws, following which labour unions have been threatening protests and nationwide agitations.