Extension of working hours for factory employees in Karnataka

Introduction

The Karnataka State Government on May 22, 2020 issued a notification allowing factories to extend working hours up to ten (10) hours a day and sixty (60) hours a week till August 21, 2020. Therefore, for the next three (3) months, factories in Karnataka can ask their employees to work sixty (60) hours a week.

Current position

According to the Factories Act, 1948 (“Act”) the number of working hours for an adult worker are limited to forty eight (48) hours a week. The Act limits the working hours of an adult worker to nine (9) hours (with breaks) a day and forty eight (48) hours in any week.

Change in the working hours

The Government has used its powers conferred under the Act, that is ‘Power to exempt during public emergency’ and has ordered that all the factories registered under the Act shall be exempted from the provisions of earlier working hours of forty eight (48) per week/ 9 hours a day (with break). However,certain conditions have been laid down under which, no adult worker shall be allowed or required to work in a factory for more than ten (10) hours in any day and sixty (60) hours in any week.

Wages

The provisions of the Act regarding overtime wages shall continue to be applicable without any change. Therefore, in respect to overtime work, an adult worker shall be entitled to wages at the rate of twice his ordinary rate of wages.

Expected impact

The move is expected to boost manufacturing and supply of essential goods and services without violating the Home Ministry’s guidelines on working with reduced staff to maintain social distancing to curb the spread of COVID 19. The decision will also help workers earn more while they are confined to the factory premises and would also help reduce the labour shortage.

Opposition

The decision was met with stern opposition by trade union leaders around the country. The Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU) opposed it and threatened to hit the streets in protest stating that during the tri-party meetings between labourers, factory owners and the Government, they hadn’t sought an extension of working hours and claimed it to be a unilateral decision by the chief minister of Karnataka. Some argued that this move would aggravate the exploitation of workers in factories and also reduce employment opportunities due to increased working hours of existing employees. Few claimed the move would be similar to legalizing bonded labour.

Conclusion

This move is being seen as another step by the Government to liberalize labour laws and further amendments of the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947 and the Contract Labour (Regulation and Abolition) Act, 1970 are also expected by respective state governments. There are also deliberations taking place regarding increasing overtime in factories from seventy five (75) hours per quarter to one hundred (100) hours.The Karnataka Employers' Association has further sought relaxation from the provisions under the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947 which require industrial establishments employing one hundred (100) or more workmen to seek government permission to layoff or retrench employees or in order to close down.


This update is by Rohitaashv Sinha, Advocate & Associate Partner at Agarwal Jetley & Co., Advocates & Solicitors. Contact: Email: rohitaashv.sinha@agarwaljetley.com or Mob: (+91) - 9999565393