Monday, 29 April 2024 11:30

Labour Codes : Claims and Reality

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‘The new labour codes universalise minimum wages and timely payment of wages. They give priority to occupational safety of the workers’ and ‘These reforms will contribute to a better working environment, which will accelerate the pace of economic growth. These labour reforms will ensure ‘Ease of Doing Business’ – tweeted Prime Minister Modi on the occasion of the passing of the labour codes in September 2020


Twenty nine existing labour laws have been repealed and replaced by four Labour Codes - Code on Wages, Code on Industrial Relations, Occupational Safety, Health and Working Conditions Code,and the Code on Social Security. Whatever rights, benefits and entitlements that these repealed Acts  originally provided are extremely diluted in the Codes and many are dropped.

In totality, the four Labour Codes are designed to impose conditions of virtual slavery on the working people, in favour of the exploiting employers class.

All these Codes are meant to eliminate almost all statutory entitlements of working people for defined working conditions, minimum wage, working hours and social security along with right to organise, right to collective bargaining and right to strike etc both directly and circumstantially.  

Inspection, which is the lifeline of implementation of the labour laws, has been practically done away with through the self certification and web-based random inspection. Executives/ bureaucrats are empowered to unilaterally change the feeble provisions in the Labour Codes favourable to the workers without Parliamentary intervention, superseding the Parliamentary legislative process.

Employment relations are made infinitely flexible to promote massive contractualisation, casualisation, fixed term employment, deployment of apprentices in regular production etc. Floor level wages below statutory minimum are legalised. Longer working hours are permitted almost doing away with the concept of 8 hour workday. All these are meant to facilitate intensification of exploitation of workers.

The IR Code is designed to ensure trade-union free workplaces, making registration of unions difficult, virtually impossible, besides empowering arbitrary deregistration of unions by the Registrar of trade unions. Definition of ‘strike’ has been arbitrarily widened to include even collective protests. Virtually any strike can be termed illegal and banned and huge fines and imprisonment imposed on the workers, trade unions and anybody supporting such strikes in any way.

In addition to provide for increasing working hours without compensatory remuneration, the OSHWC Code dismantles well defined measures to address workplace hazards of the workers. Measures to ensure safety at workplace and prevent accidents are undefined and left to be decided by ‘appropriate government’, a ploy to liberate employers from their obligation to ensure safe workplaces. 

Code on Social Security does not provide for concrete social security schemes and benefits for the vast unorganized sector workers, while dubiously doing away with the existing functional sector-specific security schemes including defined funding provisions for beedi workers, mines workers and some other sectors. It arbitrarily empowers the executives/bureaucrats to dilute existing well functioning social security schemes like EPF, ESI etc. All established bipartite and tripartite mechanisms have been diluted in favour of employers, to promote parking the huge funds in EPF and ESI corpus for speculative purposes.

Thus the four Labour Codes are satanic projects for imposing conditions of slavery on the working people and curtailing their democratic rights as precursors to Modi-regime’s programme to organised onslaughts on democracy as a whole. Since TU activity is a precondition for a functioning of democracy, Modi has resorted to attack and eliminate TU rights with this instrument of labour law codification with a class vengeance.

After 2015 no meeting of the Indian Labour Conference, the national tripartite body that is supposed to meet every year has been convened by this government!  

The Modi government has enacted Essential Defence Service Maintenance Act to ban or restrict normal trade union agitation in any sector on the plea of their connection with defence production.Through this atrocious Act EDSA, the government empowered itself to ban trade union action in any sector, particularly all major infrastructural sector like electricity, port, petroleum, transport, steel, coal etc

Through its consistent united struggles the working class could prevent notification of the Labour Codes and their implementation till now though only a few weeks ago the Labour Minister announced the government’s intent to notify them.

This BJP government led by Modi must be decisively defeated to ensure that the anti worker labour codes are buried lock, stock and barrel. Defeating this corporate communal nexus led by Modi is the prerequisite to strengthen united struggles against neoliberal policies, of which the labour codes are a part.

Use your vote! Decisively defeat the BJP and its allies! Strengthen the Left in the 18th Parliament!

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