May Day And Labor Rights
We are turning back the clock in the guise of the convenience of doing business by expanding working hours and ensuring employment instability.
Points to Ponder:
- May Day: The article opens with a history of May Day, which began in the United States as a day to support the eight-hour workweek. In remembrance of the Haymarket Square incident in Chicago in 1886, it then became a worldwide labour holiday.
- Working hours regulation: The essay examines economic growth theory, which projected that technological developments will lead to greater free time for people and better social welfare. However, the author observes that, despite the negative impact on labour rights and worker well-being, there is still a push in many countries to increase the number of working hours.
- companies and flexible work time: According to the article, several companies, particularly in the textile and electronics industries, are advocating for a flexible work time regime to manage export orders. The author contends that conventional economists in India are overly concerned with expanding exports, even at the expense of labour and human rights.
- Labour rights in comparator nations: The article cites the International Trade Union Confederation’s Global Rights Index, which evaluates countries based on their respect for workers’ rights. The author observes that the countries frequently touted as comparators by neoliberals have dismal labour-rights records.
- Subsidies and weak unions: The article addresses how regional governments provide subsidies and exemptions to attract capital, as well as how global corporations prefer no or weak unions. According to the author, this approach leads to a race to the bottom and jobless growth.
- Increasing working hours: According to the report, certain Indian states have increased the number of working hours each day while remaining under the weekly threshold of 48 hours. According to the author, this desire is pushed by firms looking to maximise workers’ time in the plant, but it will eventually lead to decreased marginal productivity, weariness, and industrial accidents.
- Challenges: The article concludes by outlining the difficulties that labour rights activists face, such as political division and a lack of trade union solidarity. The author contends that the current trend of increased working hours and job instability is reminiscent of the nineteenth century and that trade unions should be concerned about the erosion of labour rights.
Indian Labour Laws
- Minimum Wage Act of 1948: This act requires businesses to pay the government-set minimum wage, which varies by state and industry. The statute also restricts the working week to 40 hours (9 hours per day plus an hour for lunch) and discourages overtime by charging a 100% premium on the total compensation for extra work.
- The Payment of Wages Act of 1936 requires firms to pay their employees on time, on the last working day of each month, through bank transfer or mail service. The act also assures that wage deductions are only made for particular reasons, such as fines or absence from work.
- The Factories Act of 1948 and the Shops and Establishments Act of 1960 require companies to offer their employees 15 working days of fully paid vacation leave each year, as well as an extra 7 fully paid sick days. The Factories Act governs all factories, whereas the Shops and Establishment Act governs non-factory establishments like shops, restaurants, and offices.
- 2017 Maternity Benefit (Amendment) Act: This act grants every company’s female employees the right to 26 weeks (6 months) of fully paid maternity leave. It also includes 6 weeks of paid leave in the event of a miscarriage or medical termination of pregnancy. Employers must also provide a conducive environment for nursing or expressing milk.
- Employees’ Provident Fund Organisation and Employees’ State Insurance: These statutory entities offer workers essential social security benefits such as retirement, medical, and unemployment insurance. Employees earning less than Rs 21,000 per month are entitled to up to 90 days of medical leave under the Employees’ State Insurance scheme.
- Contract of Employment: A contract of employment can provide for additional rights than the legislative minimum outlined in the preceding acts. This means that firms can provide higher salaries, working conditions, and benefits to their employees than is required by law.
- Labour Codes: During the 2019 and 2020 legislative sessions, the Indian parliament passed four labour codes. These codes combine 44 previous labour laws into four codes: the Industrial Relations Code 2020, the Social Security Code 2020, the Occupational Safety, Health, and Working Conditions Code 2020, and the Wage Code 2019. The rules attempt to streamline labour regulations and provide companies with greater freedom while protecting workers’ rights.