All labour unions in Maharashtra have united to oppose the state Labour Department’s move to make it easier for factory owners to close local industrial units, The Indian Express reported on Tuesday.

The unions affiliated with the Communist Party of India (Marxist), Congress, Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, and Shiv Sena have asked the Maharashtra government to make it mandatory for factories with even 50 employees to seek official permission before they are closed. The unions came to an agreement on the matter at a meeting in Nashik on January 6.

The associations opposed the state administration’s move to amend the Industrial Disputes Act, which says that factories with 100 or more employees have to seek the government’s permission before closing down. The Labour Department wants to increase that number to 300.

“Companies should not be allowed to invest, make money and then go away without caring for labourers,” said Anil Dhumane, general secretary of the RSS-affiliated Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh.

The number of workers employed at factories have dropped because of the increasing automation of industrial processes and advancement in technologies, Dr DL Karad of the CPI(M)-affiliated Centre of Indian Trade Unions said. He pointed out that when the law fixed the number of employees at 100, it restricted automation at industries. “So there is now a need to change the law, keeping in mind labour welfare, and hence, it should be reduced to 50 employees,” Karad said.

Vishwas Utagi, the convenor of the Trade Union Joint Action Committee, said other unions had raised demands, as well, such as defining labourers who work on the basis of a contract as workers and ensuring equal pay for them. The unions will campaign in every district of Maharashtra and hold a protest march in the first week of April, he added.

“We have kept our ideologies aside for the cause of labour welfare,” said Suryakant Mahadik, the president of the Shiv Sena-backed Bharatiya Kamgar Sena.