The All India IT and ITES Employees’ Union (AIITEU) strongly condemns the three undemocratically passed labour reform bills in the Parliament – The Code on Social Security, 2020, The Occupational Safety, Health and Working Conditions Code, 2020 and The Industrial Relations Code, 2020. The bills are hailed by the industry in the name of ‘ease of doing business’ as they exist only to please the business owning class by diluting a number of workers’ rights in the following ways –
- Firing employees is made easier:
a. The threshold on the number of employees needed in an organisation for retrenchment and closure of establishments without government approval has been increased to 300 from 100 by the Industrial Relations Code, 2020, thereby improving the ease of firing of employees for many more organisations.
b. The modification of the definition of ‘wage’ in the code and removal of house rent and conveyance allowances and commission reduces the overall compensation of the worker in event of a retrenchment, closure or layoff.
c. The IR Code also has a provision for fixed-term contracts as a tenure of employment where employees may be terminated on completion of contracts.
- Workers’ rights are restricted to a small group : Instead of expanding the definition of ‘worker’, the Industrial Relations Code restricts it by leaving out a number of IT workers employed in startups and MSMEs, self-employed or home-based workers or freelancers, trainees and apprentices.
- Trade union work is restricted: The criteria for registration of trade unions with a criteria of 10% or 100 workers leaves out a large portion of the informal sector. The same Industrial Relations Code’s criteria of membership of 75% workers to form a sole negotiation unit is much higher than the ILO recommendation. This makes the formation and functioning of unions extremely difficult.
a. The Industrial Relations Code modifies the rules of strikes, making them illegal in absence of an advanced 14 days notice. The collective bargaining has been weakened by modifying the definition of ‘disputes or settlements’ to individual disputes. Lack of formal guidelines for recognition of unions give employers the opportunity to create dummy unions to suppress the legitimate voice of employees. The limitation of dispute has also been set at 3 years to further weaken the workers’ fight.
- Employees’ avenues for complaining are restricted: The Industrial Relations Code attempts to abolish labour courts on the district level, and proposes only one or a couple of Industrial Tribunals to function in each state. This reduces the available avenues of redressal for workers.
- Workers’ safety is compromised: The Occupational Safety, Health and Working Conditions Code, 2020 leaves out informal workers in organised sectors, including new and emerging sectors such as IT and ITeS, digital platforms, and e-commerce.
These measures reduce employee strength and are backward: They aim to set the working class movement back by diluting some of the rights which have been won by years of struggle. They subscribe to an outdated idea of growth, where economic growth results through maximum suppression of workers. We know that true economic growth and development cannot come if workers and employees have no avenues for improving their own lives through collective action. This is why these measures must be resisted strongly with unity and solidarity of workers.
AIITEU calls upon the employees of IT and ITeS industry to come forward for a united resistance along with the workers of other sectors to oppose this attack on our rights. We are stronger together.