Chennai: In a move that trade unions consider a serious setback to hard-fought rights, the State government has come out with a draft code on wages (Tamil Nadu) Rules, 2022, Industrial Relations (Tamil Nadu) Rules, 2022, and Occupational Safety, Health and Working Conditions (Tamil Nadu) Rules, 2022, that extended working hours to nine from existing eight by excluding the rest intervals.
The shocker came on the eve of the centenary of India’s first May Day celebration, which was held at Marina beach on May 1, 1923, to commemorate their victory in capping the maximum working hours a day to eight. On April 11, the Labour Department published the draft rules, seeking objections and suggestions within 45 days.
Previously, the eight hours of work included the rest period – either two half hours or one hour. Now it has been excluded, said R Elangovan, vice president, DREU. “It is a major flaw in the draft,” he added.
The rules in the draft favour employers, added AS Soundararajan, State general secretary of the CITU, adding that though the weekly working hours are capped at 48 hours, it would be exploited by the employers at the cost of workers’ health. “We had demanded issuing the draft after consulting trade unions. But the government released it, undermining the trade unions,” he said. Besides longer hours, the draft also proposes taking away many benefits extended to contract staff, Soundararajan alleged, cautioning that the move could trigger protests.
The State government does not want to antagonise the Centre or favour the workers, added TM Murthi, general secretary, AITUC. When asked, M Shanmugham, the general secretary of DMK-affiliated LPF said his union wanted all the four labour codes to be scrapped. “However, the State government cannot frame rules in contradiction with the labour codes passed by the Parliament,” he said.