Labour congress starts today, unions likely to oppose proposed reforms

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New Delhi | Published: July 20, 2015 12:25:04 AM

Prime Minister Narendra Modi met the representatives of central trade unions on Sunday after union leaders held talks with a panel headed by finance minister

The 46th Indian Labour Congress (ILC) will be held in New Delhi on July 20-21, amid efforts by the Narendra Modi government to push some much-needed labour reforms to energise the economy.

The ILC, to be inaugurated by Prime Minister Modi on Monday, will likely see the unions opposing some of the reforms proposed with the objective of improving ease of doing business, while welcoming some which are seen to be worker-friendly.

Ahead of the meet, Prime Minister Modi met the representatives of central trade unions on Sunday. The prime minister’s meeting followed extensive consultations which the union leaders held with an inter-ministerial panel headed by finance minister Arun Jaitley.

As FE had reported earlier, the government had proposed changes in the existing labour laws to empower industry to appoint “fixed-term” employees and is also looking at a toughening of the terms to form trade unions. However, some of the steps which are seen to be labour-friendly include the raising of the salary threshold for bonus eligibility for the workers in the organised sector.

Usually an annual affair, ILC is convened by the government to discuss topical issues concerning workers by central trade union organisations, and state and central governments. The last ILC took place in May, 2013.

Even as most recommendations of the previous three ILCs have hardly been implemented so far, the 46th chapter assumes huge significance not just because it would chart out the future course of the country’s labour and employment, but because it would be Modi’s first and is held in the backdrop of a push for labour reforms at the central and state levels.

The entire investors’ fraternity would take note on the deliberations of the conference, given India’s poor ranking in the World Bank’s ‘ease of doing business’. Trade unions including Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh (BMS), an RSS affiliate, have denounced the proposals and already announced their plan to call a nationwide strike against these proposed changes on September 2. Workers have also alleged that by aggressively pushing through sweeping changes in labour laws, the government would  end up pushing an overwhelming majority of workers out of the protective cover of labour laws and drastically curbing unions’ rights, saying these are adverse to workers’ rights and service conditions.

The ILC agenda was decided 10 days ago by the Standing Labour Committee, comprising trade unions, employers and the governments. Unions insisted on putting the proposed amendments on the agenda. It would also discuss recommendations of the previous three ILCs.

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