OP. ED.

International Labour Day is in common parlance celebrated on 1st of May, every year. The day is celebrated with the objective of giving due recognition for the struggle and contribution of the working class.

Struggle Path:

International Workers’ Day is the big celebration on the world level and it is celebrated to commemorate the 4th of May of 1886, the Haymarket affair (Haymarket Massacre) in Chicago. It is the big event of that year when workers were on the general strike for their eight-hour workday and police were doing their job of dispersing the general public from the crowd. Suddenly, a bomb was thrown over the crowd by an unidentified person and then the police started firing over the workers and four demonstrators were killed.[1]

Recognition of May Day in India:

India witnessed its’ first International Labour’s Day in the Year 1923, in Madras by the Labour Kisan Party of Hindustan.

The red flag that popularly represents the working class was raised for the first time in India on this day.

Labour Laws in India:

In the wake of better and fair conditions for the workers, various laws were introduced for the protection and fair justice system.

Here is the list of a few Labour Laws in existence:

Labour Laws may be classified under the following heads:

  • Laws related to Industrial Relations such as:
  1.  Trade Unions Act, 1926
  2. Industrial Employment Standing Order Act, 1946.
  3. Industrial Disputes Act, 1947.
  • Laws related to Wages such as:
  1. Payment of Wages Act, 1936
  2. Minimum Wages Act, 1948
  3. Payment of Bonus Act, 1965.
  4. Working Journalists (Fixation of Rates of Wages Act, 1958
  • Laws related to Working Hours, Conditions of Service and Employment such as:
  1. Factories Act, 1948.
  2. Mines Act, 1952.
  3. Working Journalists and other Newspaper Employees’ (Conditions of Service and Misc. Provisions) Act, 1955.
  4. Merchant Shipping Act, 1958.
  5. Motor Transport Workers Act, 1961.
  6. Beedi & Cigar Workers (Conditions of Employment) Act, 1966.
  7. Contract Labour (Regulation & Abolition) Act, 1970.
  8. Sales Promotion Employees Act, 1976.
  9. Inter-State Migrant Workmen (Regulation of Employment and Conditions of Service) Act, 1979.
  10. Dock Workers (Safety, Health & Welfare) Act, 1986.
  11. Building & Other Construction Workers (Regulation of Employment & Conditions of Service) Act, 1996.
  12. Building and Other Construction Workers Welfare Cess Act, 1996
  13. Cine-Workers and Cinema Theatre Workers (Regulation of Employment) Act, 1981
  14. Dock Workers (Regulation of Employment) Act, 1948
  15. Dock Workers (Regulation of Employment) (Inapplicability to Major Ports) Act, 1997
  16. Employment of Manual Scavengers and Construction of Dry Latrines (Prohibition) Act, 1993
  17. Industrial Employment (Standing Orders) Act, 1946
  18.  Mines and Mineral (Development and Regulation) Act, 1957
  19. Plantation Labour Act, 1951
  20. Private Security Agencies (Regulation) Act, 2005
  • Laws related to Equality and Empowerment of Women such as:
  1. Maternity Benefit Act, 1961
  2. Equal Remuneration Act, 1976.
  • Laws related to Deprived and Disadvantaged Sections of the Society such as:
  1. Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act, 1976
  2. Child Labour (Prohibition & Regulation) Act, 1986
  • Laws related to Social Security such as:
  1. Employees Compensation Act, 1923.
  2. Employees’ State Insurance Act, 1948.
  3. Employees’ Provident Fund & Miscellaneous Provisions Act, 1952.
  4. Payment of Gratuity Act, 1972.
  5. Beedi Workers Welfare Cess Act, 1976
  6. Beedi Workers Welfare Fund Act, 1976
  7. Cine Workers Welfare Fund Act, 1981
  8. Fatal Accidents Act, 1855
  9. Iron Ore Mines, Manganese Ore Mines and Chrome Ore Mines Labour Welfare Cess Act, 1976
  10. Iron Ore Mines, Manganese Ore Mines and Chrome Ore Mines Labour Welfare Fund Act, 1976
  11. Unorganised Workers’ Social Security Act, 2008

[1] iwww.org

Image Credits: Times of India

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: The bench of Madan B. Lokur and NV Ramana, JJ directed the the Ministry of Rural Development to prepare an urgent time bound mandatory program to make the payment of wages and compensation to the workers in consultation with the State Governments and Union Territory Administrations. The Bench said:

“This is not only in the interest of the workers who have expended unskilled manual labour but also in furtherance of the rule of law which must be followed in letter and spirit.”

On the issue pertaining to the delay in payment of wages and compensation to the beneficiaries under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, 2005 (Act) and the Scheme framed thereunder, the Court said that in terms of the Act and Schedule II thereof a worker is entitled to payment of wages within a fortnight of the date on which the work was done, failing which the worker is entitled to the compensation as prescribed in paragraph 29 of the Schedule II of the Act. Stating that one entity cannot pass on the burden to another and vice versa, the Court said that the burden of compliance is on the State Governments and Union Territory Administrations as well as the Central Government.

On Central Government’s argument that it has no responsibility after the second signature is placed on the Fund Transfer Orders, the Court said:

“The Central Government cannot be seen to shy away from its responsibility or taking advantage of a person who has been placed in the unfortunate situation of having to seek employment under the Act and then not being paid wages for the unskilled manual labour within the statutorily prescribed time. The State Governments and Union Territory Administrations may be at fault, but that does not absolve the Central Government of its duty.”

Stating that delays are simply not acceptable, the bench said that the law requires and indeed mandates payment of wages not later than a fortnight after the date on which the work was done by the worker or labourer. Any reason for the delay in receiving wages is not at all the concern of the worker. He or she is entitled to get the due wages within a fortnight of completion of the work. It was hence held that if there are any administrative inefficiencies or deficiencies or laxity, it is entirely for the State Government and the Ministry of Rural Development to sort out the problem. [Swaraj Abhiyan (VI) v. Union of India,  2018 SCC OnLine SC 578, decided on 18.05.2018]

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: The Bench of Dr. A.K. Sikri and N.V. Ramana, JJ held that construction workers are not covered by the Factories Act, 1948 and, therefore, are entitled to the welfare measure specifically provided for such workers under the Building and Other Construction Workers (Regulation of Employment and Conditions of Service) Act, 1996 (BOCW Act) and Buildings And Other Construction Workers Welfare Cess Act, 1996 (Welfare Cess Act).

The appellants, who were in the process of construction of civil works/factory buildings etc. wherein they had planned to set up their factories, had contended that Section 2(d) of the BOCW Act which defines ‘building or other construction work’ specifically states that it does not include any building or construction work to which the provision of the Factories Act, 1948 or the Mines Act, 1952 apply. Since the appellants stood registered under the Factories Act, they were not covered by the definition of building or other construction work as contained in Section 2(d) of the Act and, therefore, said Act was not applicable to them by virtue of Section 1(4) thereof.

Interpreting Section 2(d) of BOCW Act, the Court said that the provisions of the Factories Act would “apply” only when the manufacturing process starts for which the building/project is being constructed and not to the activity of construction of the project. The Court said that that is how the exclusion clause, which excludes those building or other construction work to which the provisions of Factories Act or Mines Act apply, is to be interpreted and that would be the plain meaning of the said clause.

The Court said that if the contention of the appellants is accepted, the construction workers engaged in the construction of building undertaken by the appellants which is to be used ultimately as factory, would stand excluded from the provisions of BOCW Act and Welfare Cess Act as well. That could not have been the intention of the Legislature. BOCW Act and Welfare Cess Act are pieces of social security legislation to provide for certain benefits to the construction workers.

The appellants would not be covered by the definition of factory defined under Section 2(m) of the Factories Act in the absence of any operations/ manufacturing process and, therefore, mere obtaining a licence under Section 6 of the Factories Act would not suffice and rescue them from their liability to pay cess under the Welfare Cess Act. It was held that a bare reading of the definition of “Factory” makes it abundantly clear that before this stage, when construction of the project is completed and the manufacturing process starts, ‘factory’ within the meaning of Section 2(m) of the Factories Act does not come into existence so as to be covered by the said Act. [Lanco Anpara Power Limited v. State of Uttar Pradesh, 2016 SCC OnLine SC 1153 , decided on 18.10.2016]