Unite against the attacks on labour rights!
On 5th June, the Rajasthan government announced steps towards making labour laws more flexible with the ostensible aim of increasing employment. The real purpose of the government is to invite Indian and foreign investors to the state to further intensify the exploitation of labour.
The state government’s cabinet has passed an ordinance to revise the Industrial Disputes Act 1947, Factories Act 1948 and the Contract Labour (Regulation and Abolition) Act 1970. The state government announced that this ordinance relating to the amendments will be placed before the Assembly this month. It will be then sent to the President for his consent.
Workers’ organisations and trade unions across the country have condemned the state’s proposed amendments to the concerned labour legislation and demanded its immediate withdrawal. In one voice, the trade unions expressed their opposition to the said amendments in their meeting on 24th June with the Union Minister of Labour & Employment, Narendra Singh Tomar.
The amendments to the Industrial Disputes Act (1947) are as follows:
Section 5.b of the above act refers to those establishments where more than 100 workers are employed. Such establishments have to get the permission of the state government before they can effect a layoff, retrenchment or shut down the factory. The government proposes to increase this limit to 300. This simply means giving permission to the capitalist to “hire and fire” as he pleases.
Even with the existing provision of the act, large companies resort to circumvent this limit by parcelling out or sub-contracting production to several smaller units that fall within this limit. Workers have no rights and have to work under intolerable conditions in such units. Garment and Automobile sectors are glaring examples of this.
A second amendment is that a union must have a membership of at least 30% of the workers before it can be recognised. Till now, only 15% of the workers were required to be members for recognition of the union. Experience shows that a majority of the workers do not associate with union activities or become members of a union for fear of being dismissed from their jobs by the factory management or losing their existing rights. Increasing the percentage of workers is to ensure that those unions that will fight in defence of workers’ rights are not recognised, while those which are established by the management are recognised. This is to safeguard the interests of the capitalist.
Thirdly, the proposal to introduce a 3-year limit for resolution of disputes between the management and workers will work in favour of the capitalist. It is seen that in normal course, disputes between management and workers get stuck in the labour courts for 20 or more years. Trade unions and workers’ organisations have raised this demand time and again that such disputes be resolved in the shortest time. The proposed amendment is now allowing for 3 years, which is a long period in the life of a worker.
The amendment to the Factories Act (1948) proposes that any establishment that employs less than 40 workers need not get registered. Presently, this requirement for registration applies to any establishment with more than 20 workers. There are numerous establishments in Rajasthan that employ more than 20 workers. If this provision is implemented, the capitalist will be free to run their establishments, without registration and exploit the workers even more.
An amendment to the Contract Labour (Regulation & Abolition) Act (1970) is being proposed that will allow more than 50 contract workers in an establishment. Whereas the workers all over the country are demanding an end to the contract system, the government is further consolidating contract labour system with this step.
The bourgeoisie is creating the condition for all states to compete with each other in making labour laws more flexible. They aim to get over the problem of amending labour laws by bringing in the amendments through the state governments, given that it is more difficult to do so centrally. These amendments by the Rajasthan government will encourage other states to follow suit, and eventually there will be no teeth to the legislation at the Centre, allowing for unrestained exploitation of workers. In this context, we have the example of Tata, one of the prominent capitalists in the country. When he faced a problem with acquiring land for the Nano car project in West Bengal, several states like Haryana, Gujarat and others were vying with each other to invite Tata to their state. Finally, Tata accepted Gurarat’s invitation.
Smt. Vasundara Raje Scindia has worked out a strategy to promote investment in infrastructure in the state, not just from Indian capitalists, but from foreign capitalists too, especially from investors from England and Japan. There are proposals for a “Japanese Zone” in Neemrana, a second one in nearby Gilet, where there will also be a “South Korean Zone.” The Rajasthan government wants to facilitate the exploitation of labour by the Indian and foreign capitalists by amending labour laws such that there are minimum constraints to the plunder of the natural resources and labour of the state. This is the perspective with which these amendments to the labour laws have to be viewed.
Various capitalists and their All-India organisation, FICCI have hailed the amendments proposed by the Rajasthan government as a positive step. They have expressed their satisfaction at the encouragement it will provide to the increase in investment and employment.
We must be clear that the first and last aim of capitalists is to earn profits not increase employment. But their objective cannot be fulfilled without labour. This is the paradoxical relation between the capitalist and worker or rather between capital and labour. The more the exploitation of labour, the larger and faster will the capitalist’s profit grow. The more rapid the progress of the capitalist class, the faster will the impoverishment of the entire working class.
Be they Indian or foreign capitalists, they want a paradise that will ensure their profits and most favourable conditions to operate. For example, the Japanese capitalists would prefer to invest in India rather than their own country as long as profits in India are higher than in Japan. Profits are paramount for them. They compare the wages and social security costs between India and Japan. They will compare the chances of escaping from the labour laws in the two countries. They compare the relative strength of the two countries to suppress the struggles of the working class, in the interests of the capitalist class. For instance, the suppression of the struggles of the workers of Maruti Suzuki has established that the Haryana government can secure the Japanese capitalist a promising destination for their investments. Such a potential for investment is sought not just by Japanese capitalists, but by Indian capitalists too, who desire such destinations in other states of the country and in other countries as well. Providing employment is just an excuse; in fact, the capitalists desire the most rapid and “efficient” plunder of the natural resources and labour.
It is the duty of the state and central governments to ensure that the economy is oriented to fulfill the interests of the entire society and not to satiate the unlimited greed of a handful of big capitalists. The welfare of society will be fulfilled when the needs of labour are fulfilled. By dint of being a worker, we have the right to security of livelihood, a living wage, guarantee of social security benefits. The efforts of the Rajasthan government to weaken the rights enjoyed by labour in the interests of capital must be unequivocally opposed.
Our economy is a capitalist economy. The union and state governments make decisions in the interests of the bourgeoisie and claim that these decisions are in the interests of the workers. The interests of capital is declared to be in the interests of the country. The progress of capitalists is declared to be the progress of the country. All the bourgeois parties and governments work in this way.
Mazdoor Ekta Lehar strongly condemns the amendments to the labour laws proposed by the Rajasthan government and calls on all workers’ organisations to staunchly oppose them.