Indian unions protest passage of 3 labour laws

Responding to the call of 10 Central Trade Unions (CTUs) in, workers, including BWI affiliates across various Indian states, took to the streets on 23 September as part of a nationwide protest against the passage of three (3) labour code amendments, which they said will only further the interests of employers. 

The trade unionists said that laws on Industrial Relations Code, Code on Social Security and Occupational Safety, Health and Working Conditions Code were passed by the Indian Parliament’s lower and upper houses on 22 and 23 September respectively. They explained that the legislative amendments make it easier for companies to fire workers, with employers now allowed to terminate up to 300 workers at one go without asking permission from the government. The new laws also restrict the workers’ right to strike and freedom of association to allegedly ease the doing of business and attract more foreign investments. 

BWI-Indian Affiliates Council and INBCWWF President Rama Chandra Khuntia said that the passage of the said laws showed that the government has not been considerate with the concerns and suggestions of trade unions. 

"These laws were passed with complete disregard for trade union consultations and to roll back some of the workers’ hard-fought victories. This is also reflective of the government’s lack of sincere attention to the plight of workers amidst a pandemic,” said Khuntia, who is also a former parliamentarian. 

Khuntia said that trade unionists are now exploring other legal remedies and options, including judicial interventions, to ensure that workers’ rights are protected.

Prior to this, it was reported that the Ministry of Labour and Employment initiated the consolidation of 44 Central Labour Laws into four labour codes on Industrial Relations; Wages; Social Security and Welfare; and Occupational Safety and Health. Last year, the Code on Wages was enacted by the Parliament, with its rules currently being finalised. 

BWI’s Indian affiliates have been active on the issue of labour reform, submitting suggestions and written representations to the State and Central Governments on the evolving labour codes.  They also participated in a number of nationwide protests held this year.