The present Act provides for only registration of trade unions and there is no provision for recognition.
The government today introduced a bill in Lok Sabha to make provisions regarding recognition of trade unions, drawing opposition from the Congress as well as the CPI(M) which staged a walkout calling it a “draconian and unconstitutional” legislation. Introducing the Trade Unions (Amendment) Bill 2019, Union Minister Santosh Kumar Gangwar said that so far there was no legal framework on representation of trade unions in policymaking and the proposed legislation will address the issue. The present Act provides for only registration of trade unions and there is no provision for recognition. The Minister said that certain unions are on strike but it has had no impact.
“Six unions are not participating in the strike. There is no impact of the ongoing strike,” he said. A strike on January 8 and 9 has been called by ten central trade unions against the alleged repressive policies for workers adopted by the government. The unions are INTUC, AITUC, HMS, CITU, AIUTUC, AICCTU, UTUC, TUCC, LPF and SEWA. Shashi Tharoor (Congress), M B Rajesh and Anirudhan Sampath from (CPI-M) and N K Premachandran (RSP) strongly opposed the bill.
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The minister asserted that the government is not doing anything wrong by introducing this bill. “When the bill will come up for discussion, all the issues can be discussed,” he added. Tharoor demanded that the bill be referred to the standing committee. He claimed that the bill was introduced in a hurry and gave vast discretionary powers to the government on the subject. “It is an undemocratic act. It was introduced surreptitiously. It is a direct abuse of rules of the House and violates the rules and procedures,” he alleged, adding the bill also failed to lay out comprehensive objectives.
He said that such powers will facilitate arbitrariness. “It is a matter of shame that the government decided to push the bill in such a manner… Refer the bill to standing committee. I request to send the bill to standing committee,” Tharoor added. Premchandran said that the bill has been brought in at a time when the “entire workforce” is going on strike for two days. “I want to know that what is the criteria for recognising trade unions… I oppose this bill,” he said. Speaking in the same vein, Sampath said that the bill has been introduced “in a hurry and is unconstitutional”.
“The bill which is being circulated is against Article 23 and 24 of Constitution of India,” he said, adding certain other provisions are infringed by the bill. “This is going to cut the throat of the working class. This bill is a draconian bill,” he alleged. Opposing the bill, Rajesh alleged that it was a “big betrayal” by the government which was “usurping discretionary power”. “This is part of the government’s labour law reforms which is taking the rights of working class,” he said, in a swipe at the BJP-led NDA dispensation. After the bill was introduced, CPI(M) members walked out of the House in protest.
According to the government, the amendments will facilitate recognition of trade unions at central and state level; ensure true representation of workers in tripartite bodies; check on the arbitrary nomination of workers’ representatives by the government; and reduce litigations and industrial unrest. The proposed Bill will ensure that the nomination of workers’ representatives in tripartite bodies by the government will become more transparent.
The trade unions so recognised will be accountable in maintaining industrial harmony. However, the recognition of trade union is governed by guidelines in the ‘Code of Discipline’ evolved in 1958, voluntarily accepted by employers and employees. The recognition is necessary because recognised trade union of an industry or establishment gets bargaining or negotiating rights with the employer.
The Union Cabinet chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi had approved amendment to the Trade Unions Act, 1926 to make provisions regarding recognition of Trade Unions. The recognition of trade unions at central/state level will reduce duplicacy of such exercise by different departments. Recognised trade unions may be assigned specific roles at central or state level.