Supreme Court: Overtime Wages should not be denied to labourers during COVID-19
On October 1, 2020, the Supreme Court quashed the notification of Gujarat Government to exempt factories from paying overtime wages to workers. The apex court said that the burden of economic slowdown shall not be put on workers who are the backbone of the economic activity. Lately, the country has been facing severe economic losses and slow down due to the pandemic and the lock down.
The judgement was pronounced by a bench headed by Justice DY Chandrachud.
What is the issue?
The Gujarat government had decided to exempt industries in the state from certain provisions of Factories Act, 1948. The exemptions were related to payment of overtime wages. According to the exemption a worker shall be made to work for 12 hours a day with a 30-minute break after every 6 hours. The exemption also did away with the necessity to double the wages for overtime work.
A Plea was filed by the Gujarat Mazdoor Sabha (registered trade union) in the Supreme Court against the decision of the Gujarat government.
The Supreme Court pronounced that the right to life of workers is not conditional. The claims to decent working conditions and overtime wages must not be denied due to covid-19 outbreak and the economic slowdown caused by it.
Factories act 1948
The notification of exemption was issued under Section 5 of factories act 1948. The Section 5 of the act empowers a government to exempt industries from the purview of the act on grounds of public emergency.
According to the act, public emergency is defined as a Grave emergency. This is a scenario that threatens internal security of the country by external aggression or internal disturbances or war.
The supreme court held that this cannot be invoked to relieve the economic slowdown caused by covid-19 pandemic.
What is a Plea filed in a Court?
It is a request or appeal made in an intense or emotional way.