IASbhai Daily Editorial Hunt | 26th Nov 2020
“Build your own dreams, or someone else will hire you to build theirs.” – Farrah Gray
EDITORIAL HUNT #261 :“Trade Unions Protest and Way Forward | UPSC”
K.R. Shyam Sundar
Trade Unions Protest and Way Forward | UPSC
K.R. Shyam Sundar is Professor, HRM Area, XLRI, Xavier School of Management, Jamshedpur
Refining trade union strategies to strike a chord
With labour law reforms set to change industrial relations, trade union responses must include social dialogue too
SYLLABUS COVERED: GS 2 : 3 : Pressure Group : Trade Unions : Trade : Right to protest
Trade Union protests are likely a mirror of essential corrections to be crafted in labour code with care . Comment -(GS 3)
- Code and Flaws
- Labour Rights and the new code
- Options before the Trade Unions
- Demands and Way Forward
SOURCES : BUSINESS STANDARD
- THE CRUX OF PROTEST : This follows strikes in the coal and defence sectors protesting privatisation and the corporatisation policies.
- VARIOUS DEMANDS : The strike is to protest against the new farm and labour laws, among others, as well as to raise various demands.
CODES AND FLAWS
- STRUCTURAL REFORMS : With the introduction of economic reforms concretely since 1991, employers and the global financial institutions have been lobbying for labour market and structural reforms.
- UNPROVEN INSPECTION SYSTEMS : The Codes are based on the fundamental unproven premise that labour laws and inspection system are obstacles in attracting investment.
- LABOUR MARKETS SOAR : The state must promote a cheaper and flexible labour market.
LABOUR RIGHT IN THE NEW CODE
The Codes do extend some labour rights such as
- Universal minimum wage
- Statutory recognition of trade unions
- Formalisation of employment contracts
- Social security to gig
- Platform economy workers.
- BLURRED DEFINITIONS : The Codes have also considerably redefined the concept and practice of labour inspection system by diluting it.
SOURCES : ANI
- FISCAL CONSERVATISM : The Codes and state retrenchment in the industrial sector — especially in the context of higher levels of unemployment has raised temperature.
- INFLATION : Stubborn inflation have created tremendous insecurity among workers.
- WOEFUL EXPERIENCES : Migrant and informal workers underwent woeful experiences during the COVID-19 period, and trade unions perceive that the state has not provided adequate relief to workers.
CRISIS AND REFORMS
- OPPORTUNISTIC ENACTMENT : The state had chosen the COVID-19 crisis-ridden period as an “opportune time” to enact labour law reforms having far-reaching adverse consequences for labour rights and structural reforms.
- EXTRA-LEGAL LEGISLATION : It is galling to note that the COVID-19 period has witnessed perhaps a maximum amount of legal and extra-legal measures issued by the state.
SIX OPTIONS TO CONFRONT
In such a context, trade unions have six options to confront —
- Social dialogue
- Political lobbying
- Political confrontation through Opposition parties
- Legal action by approaching the judiciary
- Seek the International Labour Organization’s intervention
- Direct industrial action.
MISCOMMUNICATION AND PROTESTS
- SOCIAL DIALOGUE : The State as per trade unions, did not conduct an effective and sustaining social dialogue, though it held a few symbolic parleys with them.
- DENIAL MODE : The state has dismissed social dialogue as being ineffectual and even frustrating.
- NUMEROUS REPRESENTATIONS : The Central trade unions have made numerous representations on their demands and suggestions relating to labour market reforms.
- BILLS MISS OUT DEMANDS : Trade unions contend that many of their suggestions have not been incorporated in the Codes and the COVID-19 relief measures.
- FEW DELIBERATIONS : The whole political exercise of the passage of the Farm Bills and the three Labour Codes during the COVID-19 period smacks of “un-democracy” as Parliament did not witness “healthy discussions”.
- JUDICIO-PHOBIA : Unions must shed their judicio-phobia and approach it provided they have strong legal grounds to challenge reforms introduced by Central or State governments.
- REDRESSAL MECHANISMS : Trade unions do not use extensively the complaints mechanism created by the International Labour Organization for fear of washing dirty linen in the global spaces.
- THE LAST METHOD : Trade unions are left with the only option — of demonstrative “industrial action” followed by sustained protest actions.
The central trade unions have these demands :
- Direct cash transfer of ₹7,500 per month for all non-income tax-paying families
- 10 kg free ration per person per month to all the needy
- Expansion of MGNREGA to provide 200 days of work in a year in rural areas at enhanced wages
- Extension of employment guarantee to urban areas;
- Withdrawal of all anti-farmer laws and anti-worker labour codes
- A halt to privatisation
- Protection of government employment
- Restoration of old pension schemes, etc.
- ANTI-CLIMAX : The demands reflect disappointment and even hurt and anger experienced by the working class not only during the time of COVID-19 but also for events of the last three decades.
- PROTEST AND CONCERNS : This strike, as an individual event alone, is a signal to the larger society of the concerns of workers.
- OTHER OPTIONS : Trade unions must explore other avenues such as seeking the ILO’s intervention, judicial action and social dialogue.
- PLURALISTIC DEMOCRACY : There is no alternative to social dialogue in a pluralistic democracy which all the parties in the industrial relations system must make effective use of.
- ULTIMATE MANDATE : Finally the protest means , Make suitable amendments to the Codes to aid both ease of doing business and promote labour rights.
This strike is a reminder of this potential, positive reconstruction of laws.
SOURCES: THE HINDU EDITORIAL HUNT | Trade Unions Protest and Way Forward | UPSC