In 2020, the Union Government of India finalized rule under 4 labor codes, with the aim of rebooting the economy and building a future of work that is safer, greener, and more resilient. In line with this idea, the Center for Work and Welfare (CWW), IMPRI Impact and Policy Research Institute, New Delhi, Indian Social Institute (ISI), New Delhi, and Counterview organized a #WebPolicyTalk on The Future of Labour Codes: Impact and Way Forward from Trade Union Perspectives under the State of Employment – #EmploymentDebate series.
Federalism and the Labour Codes
Ms Amarjeet Kaur, General Secretary, All India Trade Union Congress (AITUC), reiterated that she does not support these new labour codes and the laws need to be revisited. The laws should pass the test of the parliament as the opposition was completely absent. Whatever good existed in the labour world, was taken away by these new laws.
Land and labour both being state subjects, the new codes as well as the three new farm laws have interfered with the functioning of federalism in the country. Without consulting the state governments during the formulating stage, the federal ethos of India has been hampered. No other actors were taken on board, except the employers and only their unilateral view was taken into account.
The trade unions could not build up resistance as well as they should have been. Bigger, substantive agitations are needed because the attack on the rights of the workers is too hefty. Ms Kaur is of the opinion that a much more strenuous campaign is needed to raise awareness about the dangerous character of these new codes. If these laws are implemented it would simply take away the dignity of the common workers.
She reasserted that these new codes are a stain on constitutional morality. Deviating from Mr Singh’s argument, Miss Kaur remarked that labour politics and welfare have existed side by side right since the time of independence. Politics today is needed to fight the arbitrary attacks on labour rights by the Government.
She asserted that trade unions need to be free from the influence of political parties if they actually want to work for the betterment of the workforce in India. Many fundamental rights of the common citizen are under attack by these new codes. The labour codes will entirely destroy peaceful conciliation, adjudication, and ways of agitations of the workers.
These laws are simply biased towards the management and the employers. Many previous safety laws like the Payment of Minimum Wages Act will now become redundant following the implementation of these new codes. The Labour history of India is put under challenge by the new codes.
Ms Kaur in her concluding remarks mentioned the drawbacks associated with the agitation process. She also laid emphasis that how the new working force also needs to be taken into the trade union’s discourse. She reiterated the need to bring the informal sector into the purview of the functioning of the trade unions.