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Attack on workers’ rights in India

30 March, 2023In a cabinet meeting on 17 March, the Maharashtra state government approved rules drafted under the anti-worker Industrial Relations Code passed by the Indian government in 2020.

The Industrial Relations Code completely undermines the right to freedom of association and collective bargaining. Strike action, which is an inherent part of freedom of association will be deemed illegal as the conditions for a ‘legal strike’ will be harsh. Workers will now have to give two months’ notice for a strike as opposed to the current fourteen days.

In 2020, the Indian government passed four labour codes that consolidated the country's existing labour legislation. The new codes severely undermine workers' rights while advancing business interests. 

The Maharashtra state government drafted the rules under the Industrial Relations Code in 2021, said rules, namely the Maharashtra Code of Industrial Relations Rules, were approved by the state cabinet this month.

The new rules state that a trade union must represent more than 51 per cent of the workforce to serve as the sole representative in a factory.  

Previously, companies with more than 100 employees needed government approval to lay off workers, but this threshold has been increased to 300 employees. This means that companies with up to 300 employees can now lay off workers without government approval, which will make it easier for companies to hire and fire employees without providing job security.

Unions in India, including IndustriALL affiliates, have raised serious concerns and have protested the anti-worker labour rules since 2020.

Sanjay Vadhavkar, IndustriALL executive committee member, and general secretary of the Steel, Metal & Engineering Workers’ Federation of India (SMEFI), says:

“We condemn the constant undermining of workers’ rights under the current political regime. The new labour rules are geared towards facilitating ease of doing business. As trade unions, we will have to intensify our struggle to safeguard workers’ rights.”