ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Seismic Shifts in Indian Labour Laws

The National Democratic Alliance government which came to power on the "public promise" of development is going full steam ahead with labour deregulation. Against the backdrop of government's attempts to dilute the three core industrial relations labour laws--the Trade Unions Act, 1926, the Industrial Employment (Standing Orders) Act, 1946 and the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947--this article delineates some major changes that have been proposed to the labour laws. It also highlights the defensive position of Indian trade unions that stems from the government's haste to amend labour laws.

On 27 April 2015, the Ministry of Labour and Employment (MoLE) of the Government of India published the draft of the “Code for Industrial Relations” which essentially looks to first repeal and then combine the three major central government labour laws pertaining to industrial relations—the Trade Unions Act, 1926, the Industrial Employment (Standing Orders) Act, 1946 and the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947. The code was published on the website of MoLE with an invitation for comments and feedback by interested stakeholders till 26 May 2015 (MoLE 2015). It was then drafted into the Labour Code on Industrial Relations Bill 2015.

The forces acting in the area of labour are so diverse that it is difficult to capture them in any single discipline. In India, this complexity is exacerbated by poor quality of labour statistics, high degree of informality and state-level variations. Among the different measures taken by the current government to appease capital and business is a significant shake-up of the Indian labour laws. This article attempts to situate the proposed changes in the context of the Indian government’s actions over the past year and the debates around the issue of labour regulation. There is wide confusion over the “recoding” of the labour laws; this article documents some of the significant changes that have been proposed.

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