24 September, 2020Central trade unions in India came together in nationwide protests on 23 September to protest against a series of anti-workers policies passed by the Modi government.
As workers torn up copies of the draconian labour legislation in the streets, the Modi government passed three key labour laws in an undemocratic way, fundamentally rewriting Indian labour laws. The laws include the Code on Industrial Relations, the Code on Social Security and the Code on Occupational Safety, Health and Working Conditions.
The legislation was passed in Parliament without debate, as opposition parties were boycotting the house over legislation affecting agriculture workers and farmers. The labour laws ignore the government’s own pre-legislative consultative guidelines, as there has not been adequate consultation with unions and workers in the informal sector, who are primarily affected by the changes.
The changes increase workers’ vulnerability and facilitate corporate-friendly hire and fire policies without adequately protecting workers’ rights, promoting fixed-term and contract work without adequate social protection. Exercising the right to strike legally is virtually impossible. The new laws on social security is in many ways discriminatory, as it has removed welfare provisions for many informal sector workers.
Dr G Sanjeeva Reddy, INTUC president and IndustriALL affiliate, says:
“We strongly condemn the undemocratic way the anti-workers labour laws have been passed. With the steep fall in economic growth and increasing unemployment, workers across the country are facing a dire situation. The Indian central trade unions, moving beyond political affiliations, have formed a joint platform to defend workers’ interests. Indian unions also extended solidarity to agricultural workers and farmers’ organizations and their protests against anti-farmer policies on 25 September. We are working together to save the people from Modi’s dictatorial government.”
Union demands include:
- The withdrawal of labour codes and anti-farmer laws
- An end to the privatization of public sector undertakings
- Social protection to all informal worker
- No job cuts and full wages during the Covid-19 lockdown
- Social security coverage for all workers
Universal access to public distribution system to ensure food security for everyone
Kemal Özkan, IndustriALL assistant general secretary, says:
“We are dismayed over the lack of respect for the democratic process. India’s government need to engage in genuine dialogue with union representatives and ensure that labour laws incorporate internationally recognised human rights and fundamental principles, and rights at work. IndustriALL and the global union federations are looking to intensify global solidarity actions to support the Indian union movement in its struggle to save democracy and defend their members’ rights.”
The central trade unions INTUC, AITUC, HMS, CITU, AIUTUC, TUCC, SEWA, AICCTU, LPF, UTUC and several independent federations participated in the protest.