New labour laws and working hours

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Dark Days are coming back, with new machines, new production processes, new skills and also the corporates nourishing new levels in the evolution of finance capital. Shedding off the assertion of rights, criminalisation of any attempt to speak out against attacks on democratic ethos, thus dwarfing everything sacred are the beginning of backsliding. Every act of injustice, rationalised or not, is celebrated. One of them is making a work day twelve hours long. It was against these irregular practices imposed on those who create the base of society, the demand was raised for an eight- hour work day that got universal acceptance, but that came later. Come April 1 and the 134-years-old dark days would be brought back, nullifying the gains toiling masses had won after struggling for decades. The work days are to be stretched to twelve hours and the Parliament has been used to force these laws – the labour codes — onto workers. The labour ministry, in a draft notification, has notified rules allowing twelve hours working in a day, higher than nine, that was in practice earlier. The employment draft rules notified for the code on occupational safety, health, and working conditions say the daily working hours can be stretched up to twelve hours.

Recently, several states including Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh have already introduced laws to enhance working hours to twelve in what they claimed to recover the losses incurred during the pandemic lockdown. The measure, the state government argued, was necessitated to boost output amid limited work force. The fact, however, is that the work force is limited because it has been kept shrunken, especially to keep intact the level of wages, and also to keep a crowd of workers waiting unconditionally, just to be hired.  The system as it moves further, there is less investment, so is the production. The working class that was so much needed to be engaged in huge production units, now stands unemployed. The reverse process has started but at a new level. The number of unemployed in the country in December 2020 was 38.7 million, a rise from November, that was 27.4 million. In December, it was 9.1 per cent, the highest since lockdown and there is nowhere seen the promised silver line.  In fact, the unemployment situation is still the highest in four and half decades.

It is not about getting the jobs alone, there is the element of uncertainty also about the job itself which caused the unemployment rate to fall by 6.5 per cent. As a result of Pandemic, as the units have been facing lock down since months, the average unemployment rate has been about 7.4 per cent. The grim story repeats itself at a new level after the opening up. By the month of June, 2020, for a short while there was revival of hope, but days were grim again. Now the jobs available fail to reassure the toiling masses. For those in jobs, the days are in no way easier. There are the four labour codes, as against the existing labour laws that had protected all along the rights of the workers, and are to be doomed soon.

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