Why Labour Laws can't be Implemented in India
Authored by - Ruma Minj
Keywords - labour laws, industrialization, Indian labour laws, industries, factory rules, legal rights of workers.
This article aims to capture the crux of labour laws and the reasons behind their lack of implementation in India. Labor laws which are also known as the employment law is a body of laws, administrative rulings, and precedents which address the legal rights and restrictions on people working in organized and unorganized establishments. It mediates several aspects of the relationship between trade unions, employers, and employees.
Industrialization in India or in any other country implies the growth of the factories and industries with employers and wage earners in varying circumstances and with varying characteristics but also has some common features and it is common features that are of interest.[i] Labour law basically specifies the rights and obligations of workers, union members, and employers in the workplace. Labor law mainly comprises of:
• Industrial relations: certification of unions, labor‐management relations, collective bargaining, and unfair labor practices;
• Workplace health and safety;
• Employment standards, including general holidays, annual leave, working hours, unfair dismissals, minimum wage, layoff procedures, and severance pay.
The labor movement has been a major reason for the enactment of laws, safeguarding labor rights during the 19th and 20th centuries. It leads to the development of a new branch of jurisprudence within the country which is known as industrial jurisprudence. Before independence, it existed in the rudimentary form but industrial jurisprudence has mainly developed during the post-independence period, although it originated during the industrial revolution. The growth of industrial jurisprudence can be noticed not only from an increase in labor and industrial legislation but also from the number of industrial disputes which are decided by the Supreme Court and High Court.
History of Labour Laws
Labour laws have emerged because of the demands of workers and also the demands of employers to restrict the powers of workers. Employer's costs can increase because workers demand to earn higher wages or due to the by-laws which impose costly requirements such as healthcare, safety or equal opportunities. Workers organizations such as trade unions can exceed industrial disputes and gain political power, which is quite not approved by employers in these organizations.
Labour Policy in India
After independence, it was greatly felt that the labor policy must emphasize self-reliance as a worker. Since Independence till 1954, the period when V.V. Giriwas the labor minister, all official pronouncements emphasized that it is mandatory for labor to become self-reliant. Labor policy in India has been developing according to the specific needs of the situation for planned economic development and social justice. These also have two-fold objectives that are maintaining industrial peace and promoting the welfare of labor. Some highlights of the labor policy are as follows:
* Creative measures to attract public and private investment.
*Creating new jobs
* New Social security schemes for workers in the unorganized sector.
* Social security cards for workers.
* Unified and beneficial management of funds of Welfare Boards.
* Reprioritization of allocation of funds to benefit vulnerable workers.
* Model employee employer relationships.
* Long term settlements based on productivity.
*Vital industries and establishments declared as `public utilities`.
The labor problem constitutes a serious menace to the society and requires a solution if not to eradicate, but to mitigate the danger. Employers pay their sole attention to the maintenance of machines and the improvement of the technical instruments. They tend to overlook the requirements of their workers. Most of the workers are illiterate, poor and unconscious of their rights. The socio-economic status of the workers is far below the status of the employers. They could not exercise their existing rights in negotiating with the employer about the terms of employment. The employer mostly takes advantage of the poor living conditions of workers to enact their own terms and conditions with regards to wages, the hour of work, leaves. The workers are usually left with no option but to accept such terms because its the only means of earning their livelihood.[ii]
Labour laws in the UnorganizedSector
The unorganized sector can be characterized as that part of the workforce that is unable to organize itself in pursuit of a common objective because of certain impediments such as the casual nature of employment, ignorance or illiteracy, the superior strength of the employer, etc. This sector consists of construction workers, labor employed in the cottage industry, handloom and power loom workers, sweepers, and scavengers, beedi and cigar workers, etc. This sector is also marked by low incomes, unstable and irregular employment, and lack of protection either from legislation or trade unions.
The unorganized sector uses mainly labor-intensive and indigenous technology. Most of the workers in India belong to the unorganized sector. The contributions made by the unorganized sector to the national income is very substantial as compared to that of the organized sector. This category covers the laws like the Building and Construction Workers Act 1996, the Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act 1976, The Interstate Migrant Workers Act 1979, The Dock Workers Act 1986, The Plantation Labour Act 1951, The Transport Workers Act, The Beedi and Cigar Workers Act 1966, The Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act 1986, and The Mine Act 1952.
Cause of Non-Implementation
There are various labor and employment laws that also apply to the unorganized sector. However, in India, a very less number of workers actually get the benefits available under various labour Acts. This is primarily because of the fact that these legislations lack strict execution. The workers in the unorganized sector are either not eligible for coverage, or the Acts are just not implemented for them. Consequently, workers have insecure employments and low incomes. They have no scope of social security and have to spend out of their meager incomes for all contingencies such as illness, children’s education because of their helplessness. This is because the Acts as they exist today only apply to those workers who have a clear cut employer‐employee relationship. In India, most of the workers are self-employed like small and marginal farmers, artisans, street vendors, and many workers work for contractors or have no fixed employer like agricultural laborers, home‐based workers. In addition to this, employers have been decentralizing, hiring contract labor, and divesting themselves of responsibility because of which even organized workers are becoming unorganized. Workers are not organized and therefore, have no bargaining power because of which when laws exist, workers are too weak and disorganized to demand. There is no proper system that seeks to aid the workers and establish social security. For example, many of these workers are migratory whereas others have no fixed income and live a life of uncertainty.
Implementing labor laws in India is very difficult because of the growing population. It is causing difficulty in providing adequate job opportunities to such a large crowd. This issue pertaining to labor laws cannot be eradicated so easily and instead, the government should take the initiative to mitigate these issues that require implementation with utmost seriousness and dedication.
[i] Indian law Institute, Labour Law and Labour Relations, p. 6. [ii]Mahesh Chandra, Industrial Jurisprudence (1976), p. 40.