The Ministry of Labour has issued a Draft Labour Code on Industrial Relations Bill, 2015. It convened a tripartite meeting on May 6, 2015 to discuss the Bill. The trade unions have criticized the proposed Bill and have said that the consultations in this regard were a "farce". "As per the ILO convention 141, the interested parties should be consulted at time of drafting legislation. The government is imposing this draft on us," AITUC Secretary Comrade D L Sachdeva said. Central trade unions have declared that they will strongly oppose the proposals, as these will further deprive workers of their basic rights.
The Draft Labour Code on Industrial Relations Bill, 2015 has been announced as one of the initiatives of the present BJP government, to subsume 44 labour laws into five broad codes, dealing with industrial relations, wages, social security, industrial safety and workers' welfare. The Bill proposes to combine the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947, the Trade Unions Act, 1926, and the Industrial Employment (Standing Orders) Act, 1946.
What is the content of the changes to the earlier acts? There are two major changes.
The first is on the question of registration of trade unions. Till now, any seven workers could form a trade union. Now, if the new law comes into force, at least 10% of the workforce of the factory or enterprise must become members of the union. If a factory has more than 1000 workers on its rolls, than at least 100 workers must become members in order to form a union. “Outsiders”, that is trade unionists who are not workers of the factory, are barred from being members of the union.
This is a long standing demand of the capitalists. Anyone involved in the struggle to organise workers in defence of their rights, knows how difficult the very act of forming a union in our country is, especially in the private sector. The moment the company management gets a whiff of attempts of workers to form a union, these workers are fired on disciplinary or other grounds. The labour department of the concerned government, far from assisting the workers to form their union, actually dissuades them, and in many cases informs the company management of these efforts so as to sabotage the formation of the union.
This is not just in small sweat shops. It is the reality in the biggest multinationals. The working class movement of our country is aware of the great difficulties faced by the workers of Maruti Suzuki in Manesar, in forming a union. The same has been the case of Hyundai workers in Sri Perambudur, as well as workers in many other multinationals. Thus the right to form a union of their choice has become the major arena of struggle of India’s workers in recent years. Precisely in these conditions, the Central government, working as the representative of the capitalist class, is legalising the demand of the monopolies and the capitalist class as a whole that workers should be practically deprived of the right to organise themselves into a union. This is the essence of the proposed change in the registration of trade unions.
The second major change from earlier labour laws relates to the power to retrench workers or close down an enterprise. The earlier ID Act stipulated that in case a factory or enterprise had more than 100 regular workers on its rolls, then it could not retrench or close down without the permission of the government. Now, the limit has been raised to 300 workers.
It is known that when factory owners decide to retrench or close down, it is a very hard struggle for workers to prevent this. However, workers of some factories have been able to get organised and make use of this provision in the ID Act, in defence of their rights. Now, with the amendment to this provision, retrenchment and closure will become even easier for the owners of capital, especially in factories employing less than 300 workers.
Justifying the provisions of the bill, the spokesperson of the Labour Ministry is reported to have said that these amendments are in conformity with "current needs". This is nothing but the demand of the biggest capitalists, Indian and foreign, that they be guaranteed maximum profits when they invest in India, by ensuring that workers are exploited to the maximum, and deprived of all rights. The ruling class is going all out to attract Indian and foreign big monopoly capitalists to invest in India and set up factories and units here. To facilitate this, the central government is trying to bring in amendments to the land acquisition act and other laws related to our natural resources and environment.
Mazdoor Ekta Lehar roundly condemns the draft Labour Code on Industrial Relations. This onslaught of the bourgeoisie on the rights of the working class must be opposed tooth and nail. Mazdoor Ekta Lehar calls upon all trade unions and organisations of the working class to unite and give a fitting reply to this attack on their livelihood and rights.