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Labour law reforms and Trade unions

Context- The new labour codes clear attempt to diminish the role trade unions.

What are the new labour laws?

The current government has introduced new versions of three labour codes in Lok Sabha which are-

  1. Industrial Relations Code.
  2. Code on Occupational Safety, Health & Working Conditions Code.
  3. Social Security Code.
  4. Labour code on wages.

However,

  • Central government has excluded trade unions from pre-legislative consultations on drafting the new labour codes.
  • The new Labour codes ignore the recommendations of Parliamentary Standing committee.
  • And the labour reforms bills passed in the absence of the Opposition.

What are trade unions?

A trade union can be defined as an organized association of workers in a trade or profession, formed to further their rights and interests. In India, Trade Unions in India are registered under the Trade Union Act (1926).

Functions-

  1. Protect the interests of workers
  • Trade Unions protect the worker from wages hike, provide job security through peaceful measures.
  • They also help in providing financial and non-financial aid to the workers during lock out or strike or in medical need.
  1. Collective Bargaining– A process of negotiation between employers and a group of employees in respect to working condition. It is the foundation of the movement and it is interest of labour that statury recognition has been accorded to Trade Union.

What are the key objectives of Trade Union Act (TUA)?

  1. Right to registration– The law provided a mechanism for the registration of trade unions, from which they derived their rights, and a framework governing their functioning.
  • The TUA gave workers the right, through their registered trade union, to take steps to press their claims, and where necessary, as in the case of a malevolent employer, agitate for their claims and advance them before the government and the judiciary.
  1. Immunity from civil suit in certain cases- No suit or other legal proceeding shall be maintainable in any Civil Court against any registered Trade Union in respect of any act done in contemplation or furtherance of a trade dispute.

What are the key concerns with new labour codes?

  1. In case of deregistration of trade union –
  • The collective decision taken by its members and elected officers can be treated as illegal.
  • Vulnerable against charges of conspiracy– The trade union’s members and elected officers lose their immunity from prosecution for criminal conspiracy for collective decisions and actions.
  • It will lead employment dispute resolution outside the legal framework.
  • The Industrial Relations Code (IRC) widens the grounds under which a trade union may be deregistered.
  1. Against the Interests of Employees– The codes provide the liberty to industrial establishments to hire and fire their employees at will.
  • The new labour codes dilute workers’ rights in favour of employers’ rights.

Way forward-

A vibrant and responsible trade union environment is the requisite for inclusive growth to any economy. It checks growing inequality and falling living conditions of the working class.

If trade union is deregistered then the workers effectively lose their fundamental right to freedom of association.

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