Trade Unions opposing Labour Reforms – UPSC GS3

Issues with Labour Codes:
  • Passed with discussion: The Central government did not hold adequate consultations with trade unions on the Codes. The absence of effective dialogue contradicts the International Labour Organization treaty, the Tripartite Consultation (International Labour Standards) Convention of 1976 (C.144), which India had ratified in February 1978.
  • Many clauses in the codes deprive labourers of hard-won labour rights.
  • Without empirical basis: Government introduced changes in major contentious clauses (hire and fire, contract labour) that were not based on robust empirical evidence.
  • Absence of credible support system: Promises that were made are not backed by credible systems (social security fund, universal minimum wages, and social security).
  • Liberalization of thresholds: Liberalization of thresholds would intensify informalisation of the workforce. For instance, liberalization of major legal aspects such as contract labour, hire, and fire, standing orders.
Why Trade Unions are not able to show credible opposition?
  • Trade Unions are divided : For instance, out of the 12 major CTUs, 10 have been jointly spearheading agitations calling for the repeal of all four Codes while the BMS has been conducting its own limited agitation. Further, thousands of enterprise-based unions lack political consciousness and therefore do not always support the CTUs’ agitations.
  • Labour Codes matter less: With the support of the government, employers have been able to achieve labour flexibility (the rampant contractualisation of the workforce) denied to them by formal laws. Hence, the Labour Codes matter less even if they are repealed.
  • Unorganised: Though there are around 400 million unorganised and informal workers, they are scattered and not organised in a consolidated manner to mount significant political opposition and demand labour market securities.
  • Industrial workers cannot organise longer and larger strikes: Unlike farmers, they would lose their jobs and wages.
  • Neoliberal order: Labour reforms agendas such as privatisation, flexible labour markets, etc. are supported by global financial institutions like the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.
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