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Stop the anti worker amendment to the labour laws!

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Stop the anti worker amendment to the labour laws!
Ensure strict enforcement of all basic labour laws without any exception or exemption!
Stringent punishment for violation of labour laws

Why do employers evade labour laws? Simple! To increase their profits!

But why does the government permit evasion of labour laws? Any ordinary citizen violating the laws of the land is generally taken to task by the law enforcement authorities. But not so in the case of labour law violations! Strangely it is the workers, who are being punished, victimised and implicated in false cases for demanding implementation of labour laws while no employer anywhere in the country is ever punished for non implementation of any labour law.

Worse, the government is amending labour laws against the interests of the workers and to make them favourable to the employers. Why?

This is a serious matter that needs to be considered.

All the statutory benefits that the workers have today – eight hours working day, minimum wages, equal remuneration, maternity benefit, bonus, social security benefits including provident fund and ESI, the right to form trade unions etc - have been achieved through hard won struggles of the working class. They were not granted out of benevolence or charity by either the employers or any government.

The present BJP led government has decided to merge the 44 central labour laws into 4 labour codes. The Minimum Wages Act, the Payment of Wages Act, the Bonus Act and the Equal Remuneration Act are merged into the Labour Code on Wages. The Industrial Disputes Act, the Trade Unions Act and the Industrial Employment (Standing Orders) Act have been merged into the Code on Industrial Relations. 15 labour laws related to social security of workers, including the Provident Fund Act, ESI Act, Maternity Benefit Act, Employees’ Compensation Act, Unorganised Workers Social Security Act, the Building and Other Construction Workers’ Welfare Cess Act, the Beedi Workers’ Welfare Cess Act etc are merged into the Code on Social Security.

The Code on Wages Bill has been introduced in the Lok Sabha and the Code on Industrial Relations Bill is ready for introduction in the Parliament. The Draft Code on Social Security has been placed in public domain.

What will be their implications on workers? In one word, they will be disastrous. Because, they seek to take away the hard won rights of the workers.

CITU has published critiques of these amendments. Briefly, they are:

• The Code on Wages is totally silent on the formula for fixation of minimum wages as unanimously recommended by the 15th Indian Labour Conference along with the Supreme Court judgment in the Raptakos and Brett case, which was repeatedly reiterated in the 44th and 46th ILCs; it does not give the option to the workers on the method of payment of their wages, in cash or by other methods. Enforcement provisions including the system of inspection has been totally diluted in favour of the employers
• The Code on Industrial Relations is highly detrimental to the interests of the workers; it is in fact intended to impose slave like conditions on workers. Employers in establishments employing up to 300 workers can retrench them at their will, they need not take formal permission from the government; they can ‘hire and fire’ according to their needs. The Code makes forming trade unions by workers next to impossible; and going on struggles and strikes on their genuine demands almost impossible. In one word, it seeks to impose slave like conditions on the workers. Even people supporting workers’ struggles will be punishable with huge fines and imprisonment. At the same time employers are let off with light punishments for any violations on their part
• The government’s claim of ‘universal social security protection’ through the Code on Social Security is highly deceptive. The Code proposes not a single specific social security measure for the workers. What it specifies is that all the funds with EPFO, ESI, Building and Other Construction Workers Welfare Cess etc will be merged and brought under the control of a national advisory board to be set up under the chairmanship of the Prime Minister. Obviously this huge fund will be made available to the share market.

It is not only strange but also ridiculous that the BMS has acclaimed the Code on Social Security as a ‘historic and revolutionary piece of legislation’. Can any trade union really committed to the interests of workers ever praise such a retrograde and harmful proposal like this?

Now, why is the government doing this? Obviously, the government is more interested in helping the big corporates, both domestic and foreign, by improving its ‘ease of doing business’ index. The corporates, the employers’ class allege that the labour laws in India are ‘restrictive’, and demand that they should be given the right to ‘hire and fire’ workers according to their will, close or open factories according to their needs etc. They demand union free workplaces so that they can freely exploit workers without organised resistance, increase their profits and amass their wealth.

The reality is that in our country over 90% of the workers are not covered by labour laws at all. Overwhelming majority of the small proportion of workers who are legally covered by labour laws do not benefit because of poor or non implementation. The BJP government has already further diluted and weakened their implementation through computerised random inspections under its ‘Shramaiva Jayate’ programme. But the employers are not satisfied. They want workers to be further subjugated. Their dil mange more!

The BJP government at the centre feels obliged to satisfy them. It has amended the Apprentices Act. The definition of ‘workers’ has been changed in this amended Apprentices Act to include contract, casual and daily rated workers. Now the employers can deploy 30% of the total of such ‘workers’ as apprentices; pay them nominal amounts and increase their profits.

This BJP government has also passed the Labour Law (Amendments) Act. Any establishment employing 19-40 workers will be treated as small establishment. On the pretext of simplifying labour laws, these are exempted from filing returns and maintaining registers related to 16 major labour laws including Factories Act, Payment of Wages Act, Minimum Wages Act, Weekly Holidays Act, Contract Labour (R&A) Act, Building and Other Construction Workers Act, Equal Remuneration Act, Payment of Bonus Act, Plantation Labour Act etc. With today’s technology most of the establishments having large capital investment and huge profits employ less than 40 workers. It is estimated that over 72% factories in this country will now find it further easier to evade all these 16 labour laws.

The government of India has directed all the state governments to amend the labour laws in their states in the pattern of the BJP led Rajasthan state government.

It is clear that it is payback time for the BJP - to pay back those corporations who have helped the ruling party with big money during elections and continue to support it including through the media they own.

All the arguments about amendments to labour laws attracting investments and creating jobs are just humbug. International Labour Organisation (ILO) has reported about studies that have clearly established that it is not so.

It is against such predatory attacks on the basic rights of workers that the trade unions decided to intensify the struggle. The massive dharna near Parliament on 9-11 November 2017 should reflect our anger against such onslaught on our rights. To warn the BJP government that such anti worker policies will no more be tolerated.

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