Maharashtra’s labour department has exempted industries registered under The Factories Act, 1948, from four sections of this Act related to working hours of the staff, till June 30. This is being done in view of the labour shortage following the nationwide lockdown imposed to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus.

With the exemption from Sections 51,52, 54 and 56, employers can allow labourers to work in two shifts of 12 hours each.

As per the notification issued on Friday, the exemption will be applicable to factories facing labour shortage.

“This is not an amendment to the Act, but exemption from certain sections for limited period of time, that is June 30. It is evident that industries which are being allowed to work are facing massive shortage of labour. Unless we made some changes and exemptions, it would have been next to impossible for them to start functioning,” said an official from the labour department. The exemption, he said, comes with a set of conditions, and added that rights of workers will not be compromised at any level.

The conditions specify that overtime should be double the normal wages, a shift cannot go beyond 12 hours, and, including rest period, cannot exceed 13 hours, and total working hours in a week cannot be more than 60 hours. No overtime is allowed for seven consecutive days and overtime cannot exceed 115 hours.

The labour unions have opposed the government decision to allow to increase shifts to 12 hours from the existing eights. “The government’s argument of lack of human resource is far from the ground reality. There are people who are left with no work due to lockdown. There is ample workforce available and instead of giving them work, the government is ensuring that businesses profit by enabling them to employ less labour,” said Dr. D.L. Karad, national vice-president, Centre of Indian Trade Unions. The government should have consulted labour unions before going ahead with such an important decision, he added.

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