Refining trade union strategies to strike a chord -KR Shyam Sundar

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published Published on Nov 26, 2020   modified Modified on Nov 26, 2020

-The Hindu

With labour law reforms set to change industrial relations, trade union responses must include social dialogue too

Ten central trade unions (CTUs) have called for a nation-wide strike on November 26, 2020 to condemn what they consider to be the anti-people, and anti-labour economic policies of the government. This follows strikes in the coal and defence sectors protesting privatisation and the corporatisation policies of the government. It is essential to understand as to why the central trade unions have decided to go on strike today.

Codes and flaws

With the introduction of economic reforms concretely since 1991, employers and the global financial institutions have been lobbying for labour market and structural reforms. The reform processes gained momentum since 2015 and the National Democratic Alliance government has enacted four Labour Codes in the last two years. The details of the labour law reforms have been described and critically analysed in the columns of this daily. The Codes are based on the fundamental unproven premise that labour laws and inspection system are obstacles in attracting investment, and, hence the government must promote a cheaper and flexible labour market.

The Codes do extend some labour rights such as universal minimum wage, statutory recognition of trade unions, formalisation of employment contracts, and social security to gig and platform economy workers. However, they also afford substantial flexibility to the employers in terms of easy hire and fire, freedom to hire contract labour and unregulated fixed-term-employment, etc. The Codes have also considerably redefined the concept and practice of labour inspection system by diluting it. The Codes and state retrenchment in the industrial sector and fiscal conservatism — especially in the context of higher levels of unemployment — along with stubborn inflation have created tremendous insecurity among workers. Migrant and informal workers underwent woeful experiences during the COVID-19 period, and trade unions as well as commentators perceive that the state has not provided adequate relief to workers.

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The Hindu, 26 November, 2020,

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