Supreme Court sets aside Gujarat Goverment’s order in April amid the coronavirus lockdown, which allowed all factories in the state to extend work shifts to up to 12 hours from the earlier eight hours and slashed overtime payment to half. Apex court further directed the state to pay overtime due to workers at the original rate. Court asking factory workers to labour for 3 hours more every day without payment of overtime, as mandated by the Factory Act.
“Burden cannot be put on workers during the (coronavirus) pandemic. It is not the appropriate response. Right to employment and fair wage are part of Right to Life,” a three-judge bench of Justices DY Chandrachud, Indu Malhotra and KM Joesph said delivering the verdict through video conferencing.
Gujarat Mazdoor Sabha moved Supreme court challenging the Gujarat Labour and Employment Department’s decision exempting factories from provisions of the Factories Act-1948 governing payment of overtime wages, working hours fixed for the workers and resting intervals, among others, from April to July.
• State had provided for a fixed rate / extra hour but no overtime payments.
• Supreme Court bench, led by Justice DY Chandrachud, holds pandemic can’t be called an internal emergency threatening the security of the nation and hence a reason to do away with the requirements of the law.
• He adds entire burden of slowdown cannot be put on workers alone.
• The Supreme Court judgment assumes importance since many states have opted to issue notifications to wriggle out of the rigours of labour laws and Factory Act.