New Delhi: Copies of the four labour codes that are feared to result in the deterioration of the working conditions of entire labour force in the country were burned in protests across the nation on Thursday, April 1.
Held under the banner of the 10 Central Trade Unions, demonstrations were staged as part of the programme at multiple spots especially by industrial workers and also by public sector employees.
Touted as “reforms” by the Narendra Modi – led central government, the four labour codes – Code on Wages; Code on Social Security; Industrial Relations Code; and Occupational Safety, Health and Working Conditions Code – were incidentally scheduled to come into effect countrywide from April 1.
In Delhi, a protest demonstration was called at Jantar Mantar. Image clicked by Ronak Chhabra
The implementation is, however, delayed as state governments are yet to finalise the relevant rules. Since labour is a concurrent subject under the Indian Constitution, both the Centre and the states would have to notify the rules to bring any law pertaining to it into force.
That said, the trade unions decided to go ahead with their plan of registering protest against the codification process, demanding a complete withdrawal of it.
In the national capital, a protest demonstration was called at Jantar Mantar where the national leaders of the central trade unions were present. “Today, copies of the labour codes will be burned at one lakh places across the country – in industrial towns and also in various cities. The protests will also take place in the election-bound states,” Tapan Sen, general secretary of the Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU) said, addressing the protesters.
Also read: Demand to Repeal Labour Codes Grows Louder in Shadow of Farmers’ Protest
He was joined by leaders of other central trade unions including Indian National Trade Union Congress (INTUC), All India Central Council of Trade Unions (AICCTU), among others.
Sen also spoke to NewsClick and hinted towards a nationwide strike in the coming days. “Last month (in March), we organised a successful campaign against the policies of Modi government across country. We are discussing over the possibilities of staging a nationwide strike in the future,” he said, adding that today’s programme was called to “keep the pressure on” the Centre.
Many leaders at Jantar Mantar invoked the experience that the protesting farmers are having to endure, who are up in arms against the farm laws. It has been over four months now that farmers, led by their respective farm unions, are camping at the outskirts of Delhi.
The three labour codes were passed by the Centre in Parliament last year in September, thereby triggering a fresh wave of protests by the workers’ organisations. The one code regulating wages and bonus payments was passed earlier in 2019.
In total, the four codes are set to replace 29 existing central labour enactments. Labour experts have warned that such a reform process, that also involves not just subsumption but also dilution of certain regulations – will neither benefit the employer, nor economy, let alone a worker.
Such cautions, however, do not seem to be worrying the Modi administration which appears to be acting in accordance to a notion that labour laws regulating overall industry norms cause hindrance to economic progress.
Meanwhile, on Thursday, the protest at Jantar Mantar was also joined in by independent workers’ groups including Inquilabi Mazdoor Kendra, Bigul Mazdoor Dasta among others, who are active in industrial areas in and around the Delhi NCR. They were accompanied by representatives of industrial workers’ unions.
Ajit Singh, vice president of the Bellsonica Employees Union, said, “The working class in the nation is till now reeling under the pressures of the unplanned lockdown that was announced last year. Many of the workers have lost their jobs, while others have faced cuts in their wages.”
Singh added that even their company, Bellsonica Auto Components Private Limited, a Manesar-based auto component manufacturer, was not left untouched from the shocks effected by “bad policies of the Modi government.”
He rued, “Labour codes will only worsen the situation. We all must fight tooth and nail against it.”
Also read: Trade Unions March in Delhi, Urge AAP Govt Not to Implement Labour Codes