The International Labour Organization (ILO) has flayed some of the recent labour reforms proposed by the Narendra Modi government, saying these would take away a chunk of workers from the protection of basic laws.
As the trade unions' confrontation with the government is set to escalate, the ILO is helping them prepare a position paper on the recent labour law reforms, industrial relations and industry development.
"For some time now, a concerted campaign by the government was on to create an impression that nearly 40 central and nearly 150 state labour laws were redundant. The labour reforms, trade unions have voiced, are aimed at making hiring and firing simpler and they are not devised to protect labour," said a draft concept note sent by the ILO to the central trade union leaders recently.
The ILO has invited various central trade unions leaders to its Delhi office on Thursday to present the final inputs of the position papers, incorporating their views. This would be followed by a national-level trade union conference on June 29-30 in Delhi where these position papers would be discussed in detail. The conference would be organised by the Bureau of Workers' Activities of the ILO, along with the Centre for Informal Sector and Labour Studies of the Jawaharlal Nehru University, Delhi.
"The conference will discuss the trade union position papers on labour law reforms, industrial relations and industry development. The papers will be finalised, which will serve as a reference toolkit for the trade unions' future actions," said the invitation letter extended to five leaders of each trade unions, including the Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh, the Indian National Trade Union Congress, and the Centre of Indian Trade Unions.
The ILO said instead of taking into account unions' recommendations to simplify the laws, a separate law for small-scale industries was proposed, exempting factories with 40 workers from the ambit of 14 labour laws. "This, in effect, has taken away a large chunk of workers from the protection of basic labour laws," said a draft concept note for the national trade union conference sent by the ILO.
This is the first time the ILO has hit out at the Union government and highlighted the trade unions' concerns after a slew of labour law reforms were proposed. "Unions feel that they have not been sufficiently consulted on the process...The strong statements issued by all trade unions indicate there is not an iota of doubt in their minds about what these reforms are all about and who stood to gain from them," the draft note said. "Most of the new laws announced are not in favour of workers or unions."
In the last two months, the ILO has organised regional seminars with the unions as well, discussing the issues of the labour law reforms and understanding their perspective on the reforms. On March 31-April 2, a conference organised in Chennai was attended by 36 senior trade union leaders and on May 4-6, the regional meeting was attended by 24 union leaders.
Recently, the Union labour ministry had proposed a slew of labour law changes, including allowing more flexibility to employers to retrench workers, restricting formation of trade unions and tightening norms for declaring a strike. The trade unions have unanimously opposed these and are set to go on a nationwide strike on September 2 against the proposals.