Wednesday, June 25, 2014

India - New Delhi - JOIN PROTEST DEMONSTRATION against the labour reforms proposed by the Rajasthan Government


The recent labour reforms introduced in Rajasthan seek to amend three crucial labour legislations – the Industrial Disputes Act, Contract Labour (Abolition and Regulation) Act and the Factories Act. Although the purported purpose of these reforms is to “create jobs”, in actuality what is sought is greater flexibility of labour markets and laws conducive to the easy flow of capital, ensuring for the corporate class a license for unbridled exploitation of the work force.

For Raje, Shourie and most other right wing politicos in the country including the much loved new Prime Minister, the “way ahead” out of the mire of inflation and unemployment that the country is presently stuck in, is greater freedom to the corporates to use the labour and resources of the country as they wish.

What are we in for?

The implications of the reforms are wide ranging and would change the face of working people’s rights as we know them today.

Changes suggested to the Industrial Disputes Act include the cap on retrenchment being shifted from units employing 100 workers to those employing 300 workers. This would mean a much larger number of companies would no more require government permission before throwing out their entire workforce and shutting shop and leaving a place after they have earned as much profit as they wanted to. Further for the first time, there will be a time limit of three years for raising an industrial dispute which would again significantly restrict the capacity for employees to bring their grievances before the court. The modifications also make it tougher to register labour unions where now one needs 30% of the workforce to sign an application for registering a union as opposed to the present requirement of 10%.

As far as the Contract Labour (Abolition and Regulation) Act is concerned, the amendments raise the applicability of the Act to companies with more than 50 workers from the current 20 which would deny many basic rights to an increased section of the workforce.

In the Factories Act, currently applicable to premises with more than 10 workers with power supply and 20 without power supply, the amendments raise these numbers to 20 and 40 respectively, which would mean that a far greater number of people would no more be eligible for safeguards and benefits like respectable working conditions which set standards of cleanliness, ventilation, provision of proper drinking water, latrines etc, safety provisions prohibiting employment of very young people around dangerous machinery, setting standards for escape routes in case of emergencies, regulation for safe use of machinery etc and other welfare rights like the 8 hour working day, weekly and paid holidays and double remuneration for overtime etc.

These changes would directly translate into a widening of the unorganized sector, making employment ever more precarious and greatly curtailing the bargaining power of workers in a number of industries, It would make employers less answerable to those who work for them, while allowing them the benefit of greater economies of scale. This will also absolve the government from regulating conditions of employment and mediating in industrial disputes. While the experience of the workers movement across the country leaves no doubt about the collusion between the administration, the labour departments and the management of companies in the exploitation of workers, such amendments would significantly weaken the few grounds for struggle available today and formalize and normalize what operate as violations of the law.

In fact the real meaning of what’s happening in Rajasthan today is revealed in the NDA govt on the same day proposing similar reform at the centre. These are indeed the conditions of the “development” that Modi has been promising to the people – incentivizing investment by easing exploitation! This also goes to show that the labour reforms of Rajasthan are a sign of things to come in the future, with Modi’s promise of change heralding a flexible labour market and corporate-friendly reforms. This comes at a point when India seems to be competing with China to present it self as part of the industrial-manufacturing sector of a global economy that is based on the fulcrum of advanced capitalist nations such as the USA and the EU.

The neoliberal agenda that this is symptomatic of, is thus to be placed in the context of the extreme right wing trajectory of Indian politics presently. Keeping the context of the current global capitalist conjuncture in view, these labour reforms herald the neoliberal offensive of the new regime. While the corporates are clearly welcoming these moves, it is on us to see the truth in its face. We who toil day and night to put two square meals before our families, we who pay through our teeth for our education so that we may get a decent job someday, we who are the inheritors of the rights that our predecessors have won for us, and also their struggles, we who do not see people as mere fodder for the profit making of a few, we who believe that the way ahead is not what the corporates dictate but that which people require to live better, more fulfilling and secure lives.





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