Dynamicity In Labour Laws Post Globalisation And Pandemic
Impact of Globalization on Labour Rights:
This is one of the foremost important questions an economy takes into consideration before opening itself to the global players. Globalization means interaction between trade outfits across countries resulting in proximity between people and exchange of trade and culture. It affects different masses in different ways.
SITUATION BEFORE GLOBALISATION
To understand the ramifications of globalization on workers and their rights, we need to extrapolate their condition in a non-globalized nation, prior to globalization. The realm and ambit of workers and the domain of their knowledge about their own rights is confined and very narrow when the economy itself is inward looking and has no connections with the global market. They accept whatever set of rights they’ve been given, no matter how unjust and unfair they might be to be their fate and in the best of their interests.
And they may even be given a protocol in which they can exercise their liberty and rights. They don’t consider themselves to be inferior while doing so because they’ve never been shown what liberties and rights they can demand from their economy in tandem with similar countries. The realities of a real market have never been debunked to them. Globalizing the economy makes them exposed to those rights and living conditions which they might’ve thought of as utopia.
HOW DOES GLOBALISATION CHANGE THE LIFE OF LABORERS?
When an economy gets globalized, it and its people undergo numerous changes. Mainly the worker class sooner begin to realize that there’s much which could’ve been added to their rights and the facilities they’ve been getting for a long time. Globalization adds a lot to their lives.
It results in:
- Increased incomes, eventually improving the standard of living of the worker class.
- They begin getting aware of the modes they can use to exert pressure on the authorities in order to get their demands fulfilled and interests satisfied.
- They start making unions to be recognized as a united body.
- Globalization also makes their freedom across countries easier and they start migrating and settling in the countries with benevolent policies for workers.
- Multinational players often organize various seminars and skill-development programs, which on attending makes workers more skilled and hence increases their worth.
- Once they get enough aware and educated, they start sending their children to school, which ultimately increases their standard of living and also of their subsequent generations.
It can justifiably be inferred that Globalization brings an all win-win situation for the workers and adds to their betterment always.
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Pre-Globalization Labour Laws:
The concept for labour rights through laws in India originates from the Indian Factories Act 1881, which prohibited exploitation of child labour up to some extent. This legislation somehow made it clear that the government is empowered to and responsible for protecting the interest of the workers.
Workers soon started to raise their demands to ensure a better workplace. Subsequent amendments to this act followed in 1911, 1934, 1948 providing protection to women workers and better ventilation, cleanliness etc. Although the plight of the workers was taken into consideration, that was not enough. Indian workers were kept in dark about the rights and privileges the workers in west were enjoying.
After independence however, there was a progressive change in the condition of labour rights. Various legislations, namely the Mines Act, 1952, The Employees’ Provident Fund Act, 1952, The Plantation Labour Act, 1951, The Bombay Housing Board Act, 1948, Assam Tea Plantations Employees’ Welfare Fund Act, 1959, Maternity Benefit Act, 1961, Apprentice Act, 1961, Iron- Ore Mines Labour Welfare Cess, 1961, The Payment of Bonus Act, 1965, The Contract Labour ( Regulation and Abolition) Act, 1970,
The Payment of Gratuity Act, 1972, The Employees’ Family Pension Scheme, 1971, The Employees’ State Insurance Act, 1948, The Limestone and Dolomite Mines Labour Welfare fund Act, 1973, The Beedi and Cigar Workers’ (conditions of employment) Act, 1966, The Child Labour ( Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986, Merchant Shipping Act, 1958, Motor Transport Workers Act,1961, The Automatic Energy Act, 1962 etc. Equal Remuneration Act, 1976 were enacted to strengthen the labour class, women and child in particular. All these regulations in some way or other seek to provide a good work environment and fair wages.
At the time of globalization of the Indian economy in 1991, 27 million workers were in the organized sector whereas, 259 million workers served the unorganized sector [source: 1991 census data]. The data made it clear that globalization was going to impact a large number of Indian workers in a positive as well as a negative way. It was pertinent to note that substantial economic growth was happening in the unorganized sector.
The demand for a change in the then-existing labour laws started to outset. As the workers were exposed to numerous modes of working and a variety of workplaces and bylaws, an improvement in the labour laws was a sine qua non for pacifying the work environment.
The government came up with National Commission on Labour in 2003, introducing alternate methods of dispute resolution such as mediation and arbitration. Several state-ruled schemes were rolled out to benefit workers. Laws like Public Liability Insurance Act 1991 were a big accomplishment as they ensured obligations on the employers to pay direct compensation to the workers dealing with hazardous substances.
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In 2020, a nationwide lockdown was imposed to contain the COVID-19 pandemic. It caused numerous industries and factories to close down or reduce production, resulting in a cut-down either of labour or in their wages. The time brought only trouble to workers. Despite a structured labour law being in place, thousands of workers had to face acute shortage of basic necessities.
What worsened their plight was the decision of some states to suspend various labour laws, which ensured them of amenities such as minimum pay, fixed working hours and special holidays, special laws for working women like maternity leave, and children etc. The laws were suspended for 2-3 years on request of 12 employers’ associations to help industry come out of the present crisis.
UP was the state with highest number of suspended laws.
- Apprentices Act 1961;
- Beedi and Cigar Workers Act 1966;
- Cine Workers and Cinema Theatre W. Act 1981;
- Contract Labour (Regulation and Abolition) Act, 1970;
- Dookan Aur Vanijya Adhisthan Act 1962;
- Factories Act 1948 (barring provisions relating to safety and security of workers);
- Industrial Disputes Act 1947;
- Industrial Employment Act 1946;
- Minimum Wages Act 1948;
- Motor Transport Workers Act 1961;
- Payment of Bonus Act 1965;
- Trade Unions Act 1926;
- Payment of Wages Act 1936 (barring Section 5);
- Public Liability Insurance Act 1991;
- Payment of Gratuity Act 1972;
- Sales Promotion Employees Act 1976;
- The Indian Boiler Act, 1923;
- Weekly Holidays Act 1942;
- Working Journalists Employees Act 1955;
- Dangerous Machines Act 1983;
- Sick Industrial Companies Act 1985;
- Building and other construction workers (Regulation of Employment and Conditions of Services) Act, 1996 (barring provisions relating to safety and security of workers);
- UP Shops & Establishments Act 1962;
- UP Welfare Fund Act;
- Uttar Pradesh Industrial Peace (Timely Payment of Wages) Act 1961;
- UP Industrial Housing Act 1955;
- Industrial Establishment (National Holidays) Act 1961;
- UP Industrial Undertakings Special Provisions for Prevention of (Unemployment) Act 1966;
- UP Employment of Substitute Workmen Act 1978; and
- UP Sugar & Power Alcohol Industries Labour Laws Welfare & Development Fund Act 1950.
Madhya Pradesh government liberalized the lay off policies for organized as well as unorganized sector, making it easy for the employers to cut costs by laying off excess or unrequired labour.
The government of Gujarat, through a notification exempted all registered factories [u/n Factories Act 1948] from multihued provisions concerning daily hours, weekly hours, breaks, medical leaves etc. An ordinance will be bought in to bring this into effect.
Suspending the legal and human rights of the workers during a financial emergency like situation prima facie defies the objective of making such laws which pretend to erect a hollow wall, ostensibly meant to protect workers’ interests. The poor class was snatched off their significant and basic rights at a time when they were already badly hit by the stringent lockdown measures, which bought them nothing good but workless days with an ineffective food distribution system.
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The working milieu of workers in the pre globalization period in India was not in a fine fettle as was it in any other developing nation. Workers in India were completely cut-off and eventually, stranded from the growth, the workers in developed or other developing economies(globalized) were experiencing. Since India became globalized, through the introduction of the LPG policy in 1991, the labour market started showing initial signs of dynamism.
The rising demand for more liberal policies ensuring a safe work environment, fair wages, routine breaks and maternity leaves compelled the governments to made certain laws, exclusive for workers. These laws however, were meant to support workers in tough times, they were witlessly snatched off from the workers by several state governments through some vacuous decisions. The reason given behind the thick-witted decision was that labour was unconditionally need in order to revive the lockdown hit manufacturing sector. Such blunt and blatant mockery of human rights raises a question to us, Are we really working for people in a functional democracy like India??
(Writer, The Legal State)