Several states extend working hours from 8 to 12 hours in factories

Several states have extended working time in factories from 8 hours to 12 hours, and some have decided to double the wages for the additional period.

This is expected to boost manufacturing and supply of essential goods and services without violating the home ministry’s guidelines on working with reduced staff to maintain social distancing to curb the spread of Covid-19.

Rajasthan, Himachal Pradesh and Gujarat have already announced the change.

“The government has conceded to demand of industry for extension of working hours and a formal notification will follow in coming days,” said Vijay Kumar Janjua, principal secretary of the labour department in Punjab. “The working hours are being extended to 12 hours from 8 hours and wages will be double for additional hours.”

He said the decision will help workers earn more while they are confined to the factory premises. The manufacturing units with facility to reside workers within premises are being allowed to operate during the ongoing lockdown.

He said this would also help reduce the labour shortage.

In Rajasthan, the government said additional working hours will help units run at higher capacity.

“The additional working hours will help to restore full supply of essential goods while ensuring minimal presence of people in manufacturing and distribution,” said a notification issued by the labour department of Rajasthan.

It said that the more working hours would allow operations to run at full capacity in essential goods factories with 60-65% of normal manpower.

In Himachal Pradesh, where over 300,000 industrial workers work in industrial hubs, factories have been notified to extend the working timings in the last week. “The state has also extended the additional earnings for the overtime,” a senior official of Himachal Pradesh’s labour department said.

The government of Haryana has asked the factories to not lay off workers and ensure payment of wages and salaries during the period of lockdown.

There is some opposition to higher wages for extra work as industry is also facing a challenge.

“Higher wages will be financially unviable as factory owners have to bear additional expenses on food, health and lodging of workers as per new guidelines,” said Ashok Sethi, director of Punjab Rice Mills Association. “The government is unable to provide health officials at factories to ascertain well being of workers and entire accountability is that of factory owners and managers.”.

He said many units would be reluctant to operate.

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