The government has decided to amend the Factories Act 1948 to increase the daily working hours of employees from nine to 10 hours in an attempt to increase productivity.
At a meeting on Tuesday, the state cabinet also decided to increase the maximum working hours including overtime during a week from 60 hours to 70 hours.
The proposed amendment will cover industrial units engaged in all kinds of manufacturing activities.
The move is aimed to help women workers in the garment industry, said higher education minister VS Acharya. Women workers themselves demanded the increase in working hours and the government decided to meet their demands, the minister said.
Industry circles are not buoyant over the government’s move to increase the working hours.
Aroon Raman, Chairman, CII Karnataka State Council felt that though the move was in the right direction, its implementation has to be looked into. “The rule will probably be used flexibly by the managements. It is just an announcement; I will have to examine it,” he said.
“I think working hours should have been reduced so that the employment potential can be increased. In fact, if the working hours are increased, it just reduces one’s efficiency,” VGK Nair, president of the state CITU, said and added that the decision might have been taken only to regularise any illegal action on the part of the managements.
“It is a falsity to think that women themselves would have demanded for additional working hours. At CITU, 70% of the workers are women and I don’t think anyone would have asked for it,” Nair said.
Raman, however, felt that it is probable that women who have the option of putting in more number of hours, and can benefit from it, have asked for the move”.
“If women have asked for an increase in working hours, it may be because they grossly underpaid. They must be so desperate to earn a little more money that they have asked to work extra,” said KS Vimala, state vice-president of the Janavadi Mahila Sanghatane.
“Instead of providing better working conditions and decent wages, the government is increasing the number of work hours, and snatching away their personal life in exchange for a pittance. It is sad that this is the situation on the eve of the centenary of International Womens’ Day,” she said.
“There is no way any woman would have asked for such a move. If this is what is being said, then it is a lie. They must show some documents to prove this. Women working in garments are already reaching home late. Many of them have families to look after; imagine the state of their children, who will be left by themselves, without their mother around for hours,” said Saroja K, vice – president of Munnade Sanghatane, and ex- garment factory worker.
There are 5 lakh garment workers in Karnataka, of which 90 % are women. “Women will have to work for many hours more, and they are provided transport. What protection is the government giving to women, if they are increasing the working hours?” asked Saroja. firstname.lastname@example.org