Centre keen on evolving political consensus on labour reforms

labour reforms

NEW DELHI (TIP): After burning its fingers with the land bill, the NDA government has signalled it will try to build a wide political consensus instead of rushing through the much-awaited labour reforms that will affect a 48.7-crore domestic workforce.

An inter-ministerial panel headed by finance minister Arun Jaitley will negotiate with trade unions and other stakeholders while senior BJP managers are expected to reach out to Congress, SP and Trinamool among other parties, in a marked shift with the government earlier preferring the ordinance route, which the Opposition called “bulldozing tactics”.

Sources say the Centre has lined up sweeping amendments in labour laws to woo investments with changes aimed at drastically curbing rampant strikes, diminishing the influence of trade unions and making the labour market more flexible.

Plans are also afoot to create simpler norms for small scale industries to boost Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ambitious “Make in India” manufacturing campaign.

But the ruling dispensation has decided to be cautious. “These reforms are in the proposal stage, and tripartite discussions are on. We are not in a hurry,” union labour minister Bandaru Dattatreya had said after announcing the panel last month. As the confrontation between the government and the Opposition escalated over the land ordinance, the passage of the real estate and Goods and Services Tax bills got blocked. The land ordinance also drew flak from NDA allies and RSS-affiliated labour and farmer bodies. The Modi government enjoys an overwhelming majority in the Lok Sabha but is likely to remain in minority in the upper House till 2019. The government’s excessive use of ordinances earned it a word of caution from the President.

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“We have several plans and proposals for bringing structural changes in the labour sector but how and when to push them, would be a political call,” said a senior government official.

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