6 June, 2023In a joint letter to the Director General of the International Labour Organisation (ILO), unions in India are drawing attention to the anti-worker provisions in the country's newly promulgated four labour laws, asking that the Indian government’s violations of workers’ rights are added to the agenda of the ongoing 111th International Labour Conference in Geneva.
The hard-won workers’ rights that were enshrined in the earlier labour laws have been undemocratically and unconstitutionally either diluted or deleted in the name of ‘ease of doing business’.
Trade union federations in India, including IndustriALL affiliates, have raised their voices, including through general strikes, against the central government’s anti-worker policies and actions.
Under the new labour code, the term ‘factory’ excludes employers with less than 20 workers from any liability, the daily working hours have gone from eight to twelve, with Maharashtra and Karnataka states already in the process of implementing it. Employers with less than 300 workers in their factories no longer need prior permission from appropriate government authorities for layoff or closure. Unions fear that the introduction of ‘fixed term employment’ in the new law will further increase precarious work. The changed law also fails to ensure social security for all workers.
As a member state of the ILO, India has obligations to respect international labour standards, but in reality, the government is following policies to the contrary.
The letter references the complaint submitted by Indian unions to ILO in 2015 on the violation of ILO Convention 81 on labour inspection. The situation has since worsened. The new law on occupational safety, health and working conditions contradicts the provisions of C81 that call for the free initiative of labour inspectors to enter the workplace without notice and discretion to initiate legal proceedings without prior warning. In the new code, the labour inspector is a facilitator that cannot initiate legal proceedings against an employer, but must instead give an opportunity to the employer to comply with safety provisions.
Unions have requested that the government’s continued, deliberate violations of international labour standards be included in this year’s ILC agenda. They have also urged the ILO to take note of the complaint filed by the ITUC with the Committee on Freedom of Association in 2019 regarding the violation of freedom of association in the Maruti Suzuki case as well as the government’s disregard for international norms in organizing G20 under the Indian presidency.
Says Kemal Özkan, IndustriALL assistant general secretary:
“IndustriALL firmly stands with its Indian affiliates and supports their demand that the ILC discuss the Indian government's attack on workers' rights. Governments have the responsibility include union voices when making decisions about labour-related issues. The tripartite mechanism cannot be disregarded.”
Photo: ILC 2023, plenary sitting, Crozet – Pouteau / ILO