Defeating All Attempts of Communal Polarisation, Workers Resolve to
Fight Back the Pro-Corporate, Anti-Poor, Anti-Worker Regime of Loot!
This November shall witness one of the largest working class mobilisations against the Modi government’s anti worker, anti-poor policies in the capital. Ten Central Trade Unions and Federations of Defence, Banking, Insurance, Telecom, Roadways, PSUs, State & Central Government Employees have come together to defy the diktats of the anti-people BJP government and organize a three days continuous dharna in front of the Parliament on 9th, 10th and 11th November, 2017.
The last three years under BJP government’s rule in the centre has witnessed intensified assault on life and livelihood of poor and toiling masses of India. Under the garb of Achhe Din, an era of loot of people’s hard earned money for corporate profit has unfolded. Price hike for all essential commodities from goods to services have resulted in greater destitution for people. In spite of fall in petrol prices in global market, in India, the prices have been going up. This has resulted in massive inflation. Fare of railways, metro and public transport has been increasing in the name of maintenance cost and profitability, but their accessibility and frequency are being reduced. High flying projects such as the bullet train is being propagated to create a false image of development, while deaths in train accidents and stampede are reaching all time high. ‘Make in India’ and ‘Ease of Doing Business’ are being projected to appease big capital-local and global, when our banks are getting emptied due to unrecovered bad loans given to corporate houses. The burden of loss due to huge unrecovered bad loans is being imposed on the common people of India. The government has denied bringing out list of corporate bank loan defaulters, while farmer’s suicide due to indebtedness has reached 30 deaths per day.
On 8th November, 2016, Prime Minister declared demonetisation. The entire country was made to stand in bank queues, while black money still lies safe in foreign tax havens. Names mentioned in Panama Papers are still untouched, while a new scam has been exposed through the Paradise Papers.
For the interest of blood sucking profiteering by the bunch of crony corporates, workers’ movement has faced severe repression from none other than the elected government of the day. When workers of Maruti Suzuki’s car plant in Manesar and Pricol Pvt. Ltd in Coimbatore formed union to fight for their rights, they were charged with severe cases by the state – corporate nexus. And the government, which has unleashed multi pronged attack on any voice of dissent in the name of nationalism, stood with the owner of the Multi National Companies against the workers of the country. In the case of Maruti Suzuki, the government lawyer demanded capital punishment for the workers in the court. From Bangalore to Uttar Pradesh, from garment sector to Anganwadi workers, whenever workers have unitedly raised their voice for legitimate rights, they have faced massive state crackdown.
Ease of Doing Business for the Corporates, Dismantling Rights for the Workers:
The present BJP government is all set to dismantle whatever legal rights the working class movement has achieved. Rajasthan under BJP’s rule became the first testing ground for the new set of (anti-)labour laws. After getting elected to Union Government, Modi decided to implement the “Rajasthan Model’ of labour law reforms to entire country. To fulfil the agenda of paying back to the corporates, who sponsored the most expensive election campaign in 2014, Modi Government is all set to implement these labour law changes.
What are the new labour laws? Which old laws are they going to replace and what are the possible implication, once these laws are changed? Successive governments along with the corporate sector have been arguing for re-codification of the existing labour laws. In order to provide ‘Ease of Doing Business’ for the global capital, labour rights are considered to be unnecessary disturbance. And hence, they must be done away with. Prime Minister Modi himself declared on 16th October 2014, while unveiling Shrameva Jayate programme; that enhancement of ease of doing business would be the prerequisite for the success of ‘Make in India’.
The government is proposing a set of labour code which aims to replace existing 44 labour laws with four. Two of them which so far have been proposed are Wage Code and Industrial Relation Code.
The Labour Code on Wage Bill: Free Hand for Company Owners to Steal Hard Earned Wages of the Workers:
The Labour Code on Wages Bill, 2015 aims to consolidate four of the existing laws viz. the Payment of Wages Act, 1936; Minimum Wages Act, 1948; Payment of Bonus Act, 1965; and Equal Remuneration Act, 1976.
Let us see what would be its impact on the workers-
- This Code on wage allows the employers to arbitrarily deduct wages showing excuse of performance of workers and ‘profit of the employers’.
- The Code does not consider preparatory and complementary hours of work spent beyond the workplace, as working hours.
- Labour inspectors to be replaced by ‘facilitators’ (interesting Choice of words!), since the employers are now entitled to self-certify themselves about their compliances to labour laws.
- The governments are supposed put the inspection schedule of the facilitators to public information.
- Wage violations will not be criminal violations under this code; they are just civil offence.
- The Minimum Wages Act, 1948 and the Payment of Bonus Act, 1965 entitle employees to recover, through a Magistrate or Collector, any amount they are to be paid by an employer. But the Labour Code on Wages Bill removes this “recovery” provision under the principal Act. The Small Factories (Regulation of Employment and Conditions of Services) Bill, 2014 (already passed in Lok Sabha) also does not contain any provisions for recovering wages from an employer.
- The Labour Code bypasses the tripartite process where Governments and representatives from both employers and employees negotiate for wage. Instead of the present practice, the code vests the responsibility solely on the state government and it further dilutes the provisions of timely wage revisions, as it is existing in the current laws.
- Present needs-based criteria of wage fixation is to be replaced by the skill required, the arduousness of the work assigned to the worker, the cost of living of the worker, geographical location of the place of work and other factors which the state government considers appropriate.
- The Code omits various existing clauses and acts those are aimed to prevent discrimination. (The Equal Remuneration Act prohibits discrimination between male and female workers at the workplace).
- The Payment of Bonus Act, 1965 protects the right of employees to bonuses, including increased bonuses linked with profit, productivity and the instances of allocable surplus. The Labour Code on Wages Bill, 2015 dilutes protected access to bonuses by introducing a loophole under which establishments can avoid paying bonuses. The Wage Bill also limits the capacity for increasing bonuses through profit sharing; and eliminates mechanisms for trade unions to pursue accountability for transparent collective bargaining around profits.
Industrial Relations Act 2015: Restrictions on Workers Unions, Freedom for Corporates
The central government Labour Code on Industrial Relations Bill, 2015 proposes to replace the Trade Unions Act, 1926; Industrial Employment (Standing Orders) Act, 1946; and Industrial Disputes Act, 1947.
Some of the salient changes this code is supposed to bring
- Criminalising the “Right to Strike”: While strikes called by workers have always been criminalised, the still existing Industrial Disputes Act, 1947, protects the legal right to strike with conditions. The new IR Code makes it almost impossible to call for a strike altogether.
- Retrenchments Made Easier: According to the Industrial Disputes Act 1947, it was necessary to obtain prior government permission to retrench workers and close down factories in an establishment employing 100 or more permanent workers. The IR Code raises it to 300 workers. It is important to note that only 9% of the registered factories have more than 300 workers in India. So a huge number of factories and workers are stripped from the protection from retrenchment.
- No more non members Office Bearers: Opposed to the existing laws, where non worker member can hold offices in a union, Labour Code on IR Bill, 2015 mandates all office bearers of a registered union must be people actually engaged or employed in the establishment. The implication of this must be understood with the fact that retrenchment of workers is being made easier.
- Under the Labour Code on IR Bill, 2015, Industrial Tribunals is the single mechanism for ensuring accountability. This framework dismantles the three-tiered adjudication structure under the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947—including the tribunal or court, High Court and Supreme Court—and therefore removes the guaranteed right to appeal decisions of tribunals. Moreover, under the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947, only someone who held judicial office in the past could function as a Presiding Officer of the Industrial Tribunal. Under the IR Bill 2015, by contrast, prior judicial experience is not required to be appointed as Presiding Officer – leaving spaces open for Government manipulation and arbitrariness in the formation of tribunal.
The Modi Govt’s desperate attempts to amend almost all existing labour laws will keep 90% workers out of the scope of the safety of labour laws and surely allow unchecked license to “hire and fire”. Further, this Government has legitimized child labour, slashed maternity benefits and we have seen the lowest increment in minimum wages in the last pay commission and a massive downslide in employment.
Workers from all over the country will be coming to Delhi for a three day long Sit-In from 9th to 11th November at Parliament Street, to resist this all round attack on livelihood and rights of the working masses of India. We appeal to all of you, to be a part of this three day long protest and join your fists with millions rising against this anti-poor, anti – worker government.