Report by Sh. Harbhajan Singh Sidhu, HMS, General Secretary
October 30. 2020.
National Report on Impact of the Pandemic on the Labour Market, the role and tasks of Trade Union Hind Mazdoor Sabha (India)
Thank you very much for providing me an opportunity to share country’s report in this t Video conference of BRICS. It is really very unfortunate that we could not have a long meet because of deadly Corona virus Covid19 which has created global crisis. India is also affected badly.So far about 7.65 Lakh (Millions) people have been affected and the virus has claimed more than 1,15,914(as on Date 21stOctober 2020 ) lives. A positivesignal is continuously increasing recovery rate which is perhaps the highest in world. The months long lockdown imposed as restrictive and preventive major by the government has brought all economic, industrial activities to a halt Government/Private Offices/Industrial Units, Road, Rail and Air Transport (Domestic and International both) were suspended.
Millions of workers specially working in unorganized sector, which consulate more than 93 percent of national workforce along with unorganized, Contract,casual workers engaged in organized sector, Agricultural Workers, Construction Workers, Self Employed, Home Based, Domestic, Platform Workers, Auto Riskhaw, E-Rikshaw and Taxi Driver etc.Employers closed down their units, without any notice without paying wages for the period workers worked what to say of any compensation.Workers were forced to vacate the premises they were staying in either by the employer or by land lords for nonpayment of rent or/and fear of Covid19.
Millions of workers were left stranded with their families consisting of women, children and elder people some of them not in good health. The workers had no money to fetch them, no shelter to stay and no transport to reach their native places. Some of them having no option started for native place on foot with family. The nationwide lockdown was announced from 25th March 2020, Roadways and Trains suspended immediately millions of workers with their families were thrown street facing high handedness of police and local administration, met with accident, some of them died leaving other members orphan, when forced to stop, some of them started walking along railway track presuming it to be the safest route, when tired slept by the side of railway line not to wake again. They were rolled over by speedy goods train.
After much pressure from different sections of the society the government started some “Workers specials” with various restrictions, not proportionate to requirement. Due to miscommunication in some cases workers either could not get correct information about departure time of the Train or were misinformed and they could not Board the Train. In some cases the train took a large deviation and the distance which was supposed to be covered in 12-13 hours took 2 to 3 days.
It was announced that no fare will be charged from workers.Thefare would be shared in 80 to 20 ratio between railway and state government of the origination stationbut it has come in public domain through print and electronic media that in certain cases some workers were charged initially before boarding, in route by ticket checking staff and at alighting station by it’s staff.Consistent social pressure compelled some state governments to arrange for stay and meals for migrant workers returning their native places. It could start only in the month of June i.e after about 4 months.
The government announced financial assistance package of more than 20 Lakh crore with a loin share for employers and entrepreneurs.
How much is the pressure very measure for working class of corporates and multinational companies on the Indian Government can be well understood from a single example.
Prime Minister of India appealed employers to pay the salary of lockdown period to their employees.Accordingly Ministry of Home Affairs issued the order which was followed by Ministry of Finance and Ministry of Labour and Employment but some of the employers filled petition in apex court.On first hearing the government stuck to it’s stand but on 2nd hearing the government to our surprise diluted it’s stand and agreed to a proposal by employers that the issue of payment of salary of lockdown period to their workers may be left to employees and employers. The orders issued by Ministry of Home Affair and other Ministries were sleeved. Prime Minister could not get the orders issued on his advise by Home Ministry, Finance Ministry and Ministry of Labourexecuted. It’s is more than sufficient to show how helpless the government is before employers. Indian government has taken this opportunity of Covid19 crisis to sharpen it’s attack on working class.Few to mention are…...
It has passed 3 Labour Codes scraping about 38 labour laws to amend, dilute or delete the Labour friendly provisions of existing labour laws to facilitate employers for hire and fire.
The worker’s ceiling for obtaining prior permission of appropriate government for lock out, retrenchment, layoff or closure of the industry has been enhanced from existing 100 to 300, has enhanced workers ceiling for an establishment to be a factoryfor establishments using power from 10 to 20 and for those not using power from 20 to 40. The workers ceiling for applicability of Contract Labour Act raised from20 to 50. Daily working hours raised from 8 to 12 hrs, spread over from 10.5 to 12 hrs ceiling for applicability of standing order also enhanced from 100 to 300 workers. No time limit for registration of Trade Union, wide powers given to registrar Trade Union for cancellation of Registration, appeal against the decision of registrar to tribunal having no power to grant stay. Labour court done away, notice for strike made mandatory for all industries, minimum 51% membership for recognition as sole bargaining union. Unions getting 20 plus to 50% will be part of negotiation council to be formed by management. No outsider in union body, introduced compounding, of offence free, frequent and uninterrupted inspection diluted, though India has ratified ILO Convention 81 on inspection.
The government on one hand announcing package after package of financial assistance to employers, on the other in this grave crisis has freezed the dearness allowance for it’s employees w.e.f 1.1.2020 to 30.6.2021 and dearness relief to pensioners for the same period..
India is founding member of ILO, it is in it’s governing body, has been party to adoption of ILO conventions and recommendation, has ratified 47 convention so far including 144 on tripartite consultations, has it’s own tripartite mechanism in the name of Indian Labour conference but despite repeated joint requests by Central Trade Unions not convened any meeting of Indian Labour Conference since 2015, has ratified ILO Recommendation 204 on formalization of informal economy but has introduced fixed term employment, which encourages precarious work. Government has banned creation of new posts, has decided to reduced the man power to 50%, 3% annual compulsory surrender of regular posts will continue, has decided to corporatize production units of defence and railway a step toward privatization.
The main feature of these decisions is that all such decisions were taken by the government unilaterally ignoring tripartism mechanisms.
The government commits itself towards UN Agenda 2030 on Sustainable Development goals which deal with poverty, decent work, security of job, safe working conditions, freedom of association and collective bargaining, full employment, statutory minimum wages that guarantee dignity for all workers, social dialogue and tripartism.
Hind Mazdoor Sabha’s main concern is whether SDGs goals can be achieved with the policies the Indian Government is following. Main challenges before Trade Unions in India are:
- Huge deficit of Social dialogue.
- Complete breakdown of tripartism, polices making decent work, precarious any one.
- Commitment for respect to International Labour Standard but followingpolices just contrary to commitment.
- Heavy wage gap between acontract worker or casual worker and a regular worker doing the same job.
Commitment to facilitate unions and taking them in confidence before any major decision. The ground reality is that government is bent upon to crush the Trade Union movement.Regarding trade unions role in post Covid19 situation. Hind Mazdoor Sabha has rendered it’s unconditional support to the government in fight aganistCovid19. It has appealed it’s affiliates to be on front for help to their sisters and brother workers the response was commendable.The affiliates with their limited resources distributed food packets, bag of food items, sanitizers and sanitary napkins were also disbursed by our affiliates.Some tent, shelter arrangements were also made for stranded migrant workers.Our affiliates donated generously toward Prime Minister’s care fund and also to Chief Minister’s relief fund of the state (G.S may provide detail if he thinks so) we are still helping them.
We have written number of letters to Hon’ble Prime Minister, Labour Minister to share with us the progress regarding SDGs and efforts made to fight Covid19, we wanted to cooperate, to be part of government’s team but sorry to say government did not responded. We have learnt from some reliable sources that government had requested a loan of 750 Million US dollar frominternational financial institutions and a loan of about 500 million U.S Dollar+One Millions U.S.D was sanctioned by Asian Development bank.The Loan agreement was signed by India withAsian Development Bank on 28.4.2020 by Sh. Sameer Kumar Kharre Additional Secretary Department of Economic Affair, Ministry of Finance Govt. of India on behalf of Borrower (India).
The government has not shared any information with Central Trade Unions. We don’t know where and how the money is being or will be utilized by the government. Hind Mazdoor Sabha would like to know as to how under these circumstances the union can contribute in post Covid situation.
- Every financial assistance package for employers be linked with mandatory generation of personate decent, regular employment.
- Government should utilize the above loan to provide full and decent jobs (not fixed term or under (MNREGA).
- The government should enhance budget allocation on social security of workers including unorganized, agriculture, Jig, home based, domestic and scheme workers.The Social Security coverage should be universal in letter and spirit and in conformity of international labour standard.
- Central Trade Unions be actively involved in the whole process.