On Monday, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M K Stalin announced the withdrawal of the Factories (Tamil Nadu Amendment) Bill 2023, which allowed flexible working hours for businesses, amid outcry from opposition parties and unions.
Stalin announced while participating in the event on International Labour Day (May 1) in Chintadripet, Chennai.
“Based on the feedback from the unions, the government has withdrawn the bill. If it takes courage to introduce an amendment, it takes courage to withdraw it. Our leader Kalaignar (former Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M Karunanidhi) trained us this way. Information about the withdrawal of the bill will soon be communicated to the members of the Legislative Assembly,” Stalin said.
“This government has always been a friend of labour. We will never compromise on their welfare,” he added.
The bill includes provisions to extend the daily working hours for factory workers from the existing 8 hours to 12 hours if they choose to work a 4-day week.
The government had earlier put the bill on hold pending further discussion. The decision came after Stalin assured that his government would consider the concerns of the unions, which said the legislation was anti-labour and reflected policy reforms pushed by the Bharatiya Janata Party.
Citing various welfare announcements made by the DMK government in the past for labour, Stalin said that to attract huge investments and create more job opportunities for young people, especially in the southern and northern parts of the state, the government has proposed an amendment to the Factories Bill, but it does not apply to all industries and has certain limitations.
“Despite the amendments proposed by the DMK government, the DMK trade unions also protested. For this, I am grateful to them. This is an example of the democratic nature of the party,” Stalin said.
He said opposition parties and parts of the media tried to slander the government, but their efforts were in vain as the government shelved the bill just two days after it was passed by parliament.
Amendments brought by the Tamil Nadu government propose to insert a new Section 65A in the Factories Act, 1948, to enable factories to have flexible working hours.
Since the day the bill was passed in the assembly, it has faced strong protests from trade unions and opposition parties. While state cabinet ministers clarified that the bill would not take away workers’ existing benefits and would only be implemented with workers’ approval and that there would be exceptions, union representatives refused to back down.
On Monday, the state government met with union representatives at the secretariat. Unions unanimously called for the bill to be withdrawn. The leaders of the DMK alliance have also made the same request.