As with farm laws, Government fails to consult unions on proposed 'Labour Codes'
Trade Unions were not consulted while framing the Labour Codes. Not once since 2015 have they been invited to discuss changes proposed
The four Labour Codes, widely anticipated to come into effect from July 1, 2022, have been delayed till ‘final consultations’ are held, claims the government. Attempts are being made to evolve a consensus, reassured the Union Labour Minister. But apprehensions persist about the exercise to reduce 44 Labour Laws into four codes on wages, social security, industrial relations and occupational safety.
Most central trade unions have agreed to the codes on wages and social security but they have reservations on the other two codes which they want to be reviewed.
AITUC general secretary Amarjeet Kaur believes that broadly speaking the proposed changes are against the interests of workers. Not only will they have more difficulties in forming a trade union but the codes redefine wages, she points out. Contract labour or contractualisation of work is being promoted, making terms like Gratuity and Bonus etc. redundant.
She also voices misgivings about the Codes increasing working hours from 8 hours to 12 hours. While government spokespersons have taken pains to claim that the 48-hours-perweek ceiling would be maintained, workers wonder if a 12-hour-day would then mean a four-day week for them.
Kaur is also concerned about the codes weakening collective bargaining power of workers. Forming trade unions is being made more difficult; if unions are formed, there would be hurdles in recognising them and a large number of workers will be denied the opportunity to take recourse to legal redressal. Like the farm laws, these codes are also unwanted and undesirable, she says and describes them as not quite ‘worker-friendly’. The right to strike by workers will also become more difficult, she argues.
Tapan Sen, general secretary of CITU, also feels that the codes benefit the employers and corporates more than the workers. Trade Unions have been opposed to the codes and organised a two-day strike in march this year. Their opposition would continue, he said.
The general secretary of AICCTU Rajiv Dimri describes the labour codes as codes for slavery. While the codes are ostensibly meant to simplify labour rights and labour laws, they are essentially designed to enhance the ‘ease of doing business’. That is why, he says, the workers are opposing the New Pension Scheme too. The codes are an attempt to turn workers into ‘beneficiaries’. The Government has failed to implement the codes because of opposition from the workers and trade unions, he points out, and demands that the codes be reviewed in consultation with the workers.
Significantly, the trade unions were never consulted, says Kaur. At the Indian Labour Conference in 2015 many of the issues were raised and an industrial strike followed. The Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh (BMS) stood with the other unions till then but the RSS-affiliated BMS now backs the Government. This Government, say union leaders, has totally ignored consultation with workers or their representatives.
“They talk to industry, they consult think tanks but they are not inclined to take workers into confidence, just as they didn’t in the case of farmers,” says a trade unionist bitterly.
(This was first published in National Herald on Sunday)
Published: 08 Jul 2022, 6:30 PM