Indian Parliament passes laws that attack the rights of working people

The ITUC is appalled at the three new bills passed by the Lok Sabha, the Parliament of India, which trade unions in the country have called an open attack on the rights of working people.

The changes have been driven by the business community, which seeks to improve India’s ranking in the ‘ease of doing business’ index. In reality, the changes end much of the hard-won protection enjoyed by working people since independence.

A coalition of trade union centres, including the ITUC’s affiliates, have criticised many features of the new bills, including the following:

  • The Code on Social Security does not make social security a universal right, leaving millions of people without clear social protection.
  • The Occupational Safety, Health and Working Conditions Code excludes huge areas of the economy, including agriculture, which employs 50% of the total working population of India.
  • The Industrial Relations Code protects industry at the cost of working people, in violation of the constitution, by restricting the definition of ‘worker’ and severely limiting the right to strike and the ability of working people to participate in a collective bargaining process.

Sharan Burrow, ITUC General Secretary, said: “The timing could not be worse. As India is struggling with an unprecedented economic crisis caused by the effects of Covid-19, the working people of India need more protection, not less. This is the worst possible time to attack the rights of working people.

“We fully support our affiliates in India as they do everything they can to oppose these regressive changes that will do severe harm to working people and their families and set back the Indian economy.

“I call on the Indian government to think again and take a lead from countries that are using this time as an opportunity to improve social protection for their citizens. Now is the time to start building the new social contract that working people in India need and deserve, and to do it through social dialogue in partnership with the unions.”