Efforts to bring back staff may include persuasion, pay cuts & disciplinary action.
Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh have loosened labour laws that will allow companies to hire and fire workers more easily.
Factories and other establishments in some states may be allowed to cut salaries and initiate disciplinary action against workers who don’t report back to work within a stipulated period once the Covid-19 lockdown is lifted.
Labour department officials in states such as Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka and Uttar Pradesh told ET that issuing such an advisory to factories in their states is being considered at the top levels to bring workers back. Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh have loosened labour laws that will allow companies to hire and fire workers more easily as part of measures to make conditions for companies easier in order to resume economic activity.
“While an internal discussion is being held on these lines, a final decision will be taken if the lockdown is not extended beyond May 17,” said a top official in Gujarat’s labour department.
A directive, if issued, would be under the Factories Act, which covers any unit that employs 10 or more workers and uses electricity for production or employs 20 or more people with or without electricity.
Any circular would apply to all workers in relevant units and include migrant workers who may have either gone back home or are preparing to leave due to uncertainty over jobs and wages.
Not Enough Manpower to Restart Factories
The idea is to dissuade migrant workers from going back or to return as soon as possible if they’ve left. At least a dozen employers’ associations met labour minister Santosh Kumar Gangwar on Friday and urged the Centre to issue such an advisory as it would compel workers to return.
There is recent precedent for such measures — Goa, Gujarat and other states had in April issued similar advisories to allow essential services during the lockdown to ensure unhindered supply of medicines, food, fruit, vegetables, milk, bread and other items.
Such a measure will put pressure on workers to rejoin or face the risk of losing their jobs while helping the government address the issue of labour shortage as it looks to get factories open and resume economic activity, according to the people cited earlier. There is concern that unless strict orders are issued, workers may not come back to work even if the lockdown is lifted and production is allowed subject to precautions and social distancing rules. Millions of migrant workers have gone back to home states in the absence of work, leaving industrial hubs without enough manpower to restart factories.