Trade Unions Have Failed to Safeguard the Rights of the Workforce in India- Mr. Virjesh Upadhyay


In 2020, the Union Government of India finalized rule under 4 labor codes, with the aim of rebooting the economy and building a future of work that is safer, greener, and more resilient. In line with this idea, the Center for Work and Welfare (CWW), IMPRI Impact and Policy Research Institute, New Delhi, Indian Social Institute (ISI), New Delhi, and Counterview organized a #WebPolicyTalk on The Future of Labour Codes: Impact and Way Forward from Trade Union Perspectives under the State of Employment – #EmploymentDebate series.

The Future of Labour Codes: Impact and Way Forward from Trade Union Perspectives

Historical Background

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Mr. Virjesh Upadhyay, Research and Intellectual Work, Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh (BMS); Director-General, Dattopant Thengadi Foundation, mentioned how India has lagged after so many years since independence in bringing coherent, worker-friendly labor codes. Despite having 93 % of the working force in the unorganized work sector, the new labor laws barely cover 3 to 4 % of the entire Indian workforce. According to Mr. Upadhyay, the new laws only focus on the expansion of business.

He brought in the example of the infamous migrant exodus of 2020, to portray how these laws have yet again failed to safeguard the rights of the unorganized sector. He is of the opinion that the labor laws should be drafted afresh. Mr. Upadhyay also mentioned how the enforcement and implementation are lagging and the trade unions have failed to safeguard the rights of the workforce in India. Trade unions also need internal introspection. The lack of unity, coherence among the myriad trade unions is hampering their proper functioning.

He focused on the need to distinguish between politics and labor welfare, so as to ensure the relevance of these trade unions. Labour welfare should be the core concern, instead of petty politics among these trade unions. In discussing these drawbacks of the trade unions, he also mentioned the success that BMS has made so far in protecting worker rights in India.

Mr. Upadhyay in giving his concluding remarks asserted the need to keep up with the dynamic character of the society and economy at large. The trade union’s form of working based on the 60’s economy will not work in the modern-day.  And for that, they need to be changing their mindset, perception, and our approach keeping pace with modern times.

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