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Indian trade unions protest government labour policies


Indian trade unions protest government labour policies

Photo: REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui

Ten central Indian trade unions will lead nationwide protests today against government labour policies that would nullify existing laws concerning occupational safety, workday length and layoff thresholds.

The demonstrations follow efforts by Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led state governments to relax labour laws in May under the pretext of enabling businesses to recover more quickly from the lockdown. In states such as Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh, this has meant lengthening the legal workday and lessening the frequency of required inspections that ensure factory compliance with worker safety laws.

Central trade unions, including the 33-million member Indian National Trade Union Congress (INTUC), have led the pushback against BJP plans to nullify labour laws. The unions plan to follow today’s protests with a general strike.

Pandemic aside, this year marks India’s most severe economic slowdown in three decades. As such, it is unlikely that BJP governments will make significant changes to labour policies that they believe will resuscitate the world’s fifth-largest economy. Nevertheless, the country’s ballooning unemployment rate—currently at 11%—may push state governments to reconsider amendments that have allowed employers, particularly in manufacturing, to increase layoffs and retrenchment.

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