March 19, 2023

CITU Urges Karnataka Governor to Reject Amendment to Factories Act

The new amendment extends working hours from nine to twelve and removes restrictions on women working late-night shifts.

THE Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU) has written to the Karnataka governor Vajubhai Vala and urged him not to give his assent to the amendment to the Factories act passed by the Karnataka Assembly.

If passed, the new amendments would render changes to six sections of the Factories Act 1948. The new provisions would drastically change life inside and outside the factories.

The maximum working hours have been revised to 12 hours/day, up to 48 hours/week. Workers can be made to work for up to 6 hours without a break.

The original law prohibited engaging women in factories between 7 pm and 6 am, but the new amendments allow women to work during these late hours.

CITU points out to various reasons why the bill should not be passed. It argues that the present trend of shifting factories to the city's outskirts has led to a travel time of 1-2 hours/day for workers. This, coupled with 12 hours of work, would result in workers being outside their homes for up to 16 hours/day. Further, it argues that compelling women to work the night shift may discourage women from working in factories.

Regarding the hours of work, CITU states, "The well-settled economic thought of extraction of profit is directly linked with the hours of work. The huge profit in absolute terms is generated by the extension of working hours/day of work. Even though the concept of profit/surplus sharing is enunciated to some extent in the concept of bonus through the Payment of Bonus Act 1973, it too has put the limitation on the payment of bonuses at the rate of minimum bonus at 8.33 per cent and maximum at 20 per cent. Further, in most cases, it is 8.33 per cent or the notified statutory minimum wages of the scheduled employment, whichever is higher. Hence this extension of working hours/day and the spread over of the working day, with more restrictions being imposed on the entitlement of a worker for overtime wages at double the rate of wages, is only an attempt to enable the employer to legally usurp more profit generated by the increase in working hours of a working day."

CITU states, "As per the Annual Survey of Industries (factories division) 2019-20, the share of wages in the Net Value Addition (NVA) in Karnataka is 15.04 per cent, while the national average is 18.87 per cent and the share of profits of employers in NVA is 46.11 per cent, while the national average is 38.71 per cent. These amendments will further reduce the share of wages and increase the share of profits. It leads to the redistributive process of value addition tilted towards the employer class as such. This trend of decreasing share of wages will only shrink the purchasing power of the workers and contribute to slow down and resultant recession in the economy of the state."

All trade unions in Karnataka would be going on a protest against this amendment, on March 23.

The new amendments will give more flexibility to owners. They can run the factory for 24 hours (in two shifts) for four days and shut it down for three days. They will save on overtime payments and reduce costs while extracting more work from the labour force. These amendments will hurt workers. While the bill is passed in both houses of the Karnataka assembly, it is awaiting the governor's assent.