GUWAHATI, Sept 7 - In a major development with regard to labour laws, the Assam Legislative Assembly today passed by majority decision The Industrial Disputes (Assam Amendment) Bill, 2017, which authorises the employers to retrench up to 300 employees �without seeking prior approval of the government.�
The Bill was passed amid vocal opposition from Congress MLA Sherman Ali Ahmed, who staged a walkout after his demand for a division on the Bill was rejected by the Speaker.
The Statement of Objects and Reasons of the legislation states that �The salient feature of the Act is to amend the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947, raising the threshold on number of employees from 100 to 300 to allow retrenchment of employees without seeking prior approval of the government��
It added that the amendment seeks to �achieve the objective of �Ease of Doing Business� and thereby encouraging positive business environment in the State. �Ease of Doing Business� being an important initiative of the Government of India, the State government proposes this amendment as one of its labour reforms.�
Congress� Ahmed had brought amendment to the clause in the Bill dealing with the number of employees and suggested that instead of increasing it from 100 to 300 it should be halved to 50.
He alleged that the Bill seeks to protect the interests of the industrialists at the cost of the workers and will threaten the job security of the working masses.
�Most industries in Assam employ less than 300 workers. The Bill will allow the industrialists a free hand to fire workers at will,� Ahmed said.
In his reply, Minister for Labour and Employment Pallab Lochan Das discounted such apprehensions and said that both the Central and State governments, in recent times, have taken steps for safeguarding the interests of workers, including expanding social security and insurance benefits.
He pointed out that the Bill has not been brought to facilitate retrenchment of employees, but only for issues dealing with closure.
However, Ahmed was not convinced and refused to withdraw his amendment.
But AIUDF�s Aminul Islam, who had suggested another amendment asking for bringing down the number of employees in the clause related to retrenchment to 200 instead of the 300 as mentioned in the Bill, withdrew his amendment.
The House passed the Bill with a voice vote. But Ahmed demanded a division.
When Speaker Hitendra Nath Goswami did not accede to his request, Ahmed walked out of the House, without any of his party legislators present in the Assembly joining him in the protest.
Meanwhile, the House also passed a number of other Bills.
They include The Assam Municipal (Amendment) Bill, 2017, The Assam Science and Technology University (Amendment) Bill, 2017, The Kumar Bhaskar Varma Sanskrit and Ancient Studies University (Amendment) Bill, 2017, The Majuli University of Culture Bill, 2017, The Madhabdev University Bill, 2017, The Bhattadev University Bill, 2017, and The Rabindranath Tagore University Bill, 2017.