Since the beginning of globalisation in India around 1990s, the protection granted to workers under the Industrial Tribunal Act has declined substantially. During this period about 1,920 decisions have been delivered by the Supreme Court and various High Courts of the country, which paved the way for contract labour, hire-and-fire system, easy retrenchment, etc. Today, the meaning of labour reforms is nothing but to give more powers to employers and curtail the rights of labourers. Not only this, the advocates too failed to take up the matter effectively before the court or in filing review petitions whenever any such decision was delivered. To highlight all such problems, the Legal Cell of Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh organised a national seminar in New Delhi on December 9. About 100 leading advocates from various parts of the country participated in the seminar and suggested various ways and means to protect the workers? interest.
Initiating the discussion, Shri Girish Awasthi, BMS president, said people still have trust in judiciary, but during the last few years it too appears to have adopted the anti-labour attitude, which has created uneasiness among labourers. ?The court has defined the word ?industry? in a way that a large number of industries have come out of the preview of industry and labourers cannot now form even a trade union there resulting in more exploitation of workers. There was a provision in the law that if termination of any worker is termed illegal by the court, he/she was entitled for back wages, but now the Supreme Court has termed it illegal citing the ?no work, no wage? principle. It is injustice with the workers. This is not failure of the advocacy because this is denial of the established law of the land. The court has now allowed contract labour also. The interpretation of casual or temporary employment by the apex court is fatal. The court has also refused to protect the workers? right to strike,? he said.
Shri Awasthi further said the government now is in the process of changing the Factories Act for enhancing the existing working hours from 48 to 60 per week and also for bringing various sectors under the utility sectors. ?Around 93 per cent of workers in the country work in unorganised sector and the government has failed to table the Social Security Bill for them in Parliament. Today, more than 37 crore workers of this sector feel themselves neglected and discriminated. After all, who will listen to their woes? At a time when we dream of making India a developed nation by 2020, do we want 22 crore workers to remain Below Poverty Line?? he asked.
Shri Baij Nath Rai, national secretary of BMS, said before 1975 the atmosphere was sensitive for the labourers. But afterwards the protection granted to them under the law has begun reducing and the courts started delivering verdicts against the workers? interest. After 1975 the concept of industry started changing and the social security cover granted to the workers also started to be reduced. After the globalisation process it has become a daily routine. The poor labourers could not visit the good advocates due to lack of money. The advocates too did not present the case in the court as they should have presented. By and large, today both the workers and the industries are facing the problems. ?It is the time when advocates, setting aside their personal interest, needed to think about the workers and the industries,? he said further adding that BMS is the first labour organisation that has organised a seminar on such a sensitive issue. He said the BMS leaders along with senior advocates would meet the judges of Supreme Court and High Courts requesting them to protect the interest of the workers.
Shri Saji Narayanan, president of the Legal Cell, said the judiciary has disappointed the whole labour sector and it appears the court, the ultimate hope for justice for a common man, too has no soft corner for the working class. Shri S.M. Dharap, advocate, Mumbai, stressed the need to raise the issue at different levels including Parliament. He also appealed to the advocates to take up the labour cases in the court without charging or charging minimal fees. Shri G.S. Gill, advocate from Jaipur, said when the courts are changing, the advocates should also change the course of pleadings. He said whenever any anti-worker decision comes the advocates should file appropriate review petitions before the competent courts. The trade unions too should re-frame their strategies under the changing circumstances. Shri S.S. Sharma, advocate of Rajasthan High Court, Shri Nikhil Goel, advocate of Supreme Court and president of BMS, Goa, Shri Ramakant Shukla, advocate from Uttar Pradesh, senior advocates Shri P. Gaonkar, Shri Vikas Jha and Smt. Mangalamba also spoke on the occasion.