RSS-affiliate Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh (BMS) will launch a nationwide agitation on September 6 against the Modi government's reforms that it says have led to "extreme exploitation and harassment" of the labour sector and led to increasing unemployment in the country.
CK Saji Narayanan, chief of one of the largest trade unions in the country, told IANS that they would stage protests in all the districts demanding among other things, scrapping of "fixed-term employment", which he said was "destroying" the labour sector.
"Because of these so-called reforms, contract labour has now become the default model of employment in India. Today 67% of the organised sector workers belong to this category. The trend of contract labour system has increased with the elimination of permanent posts in private and public entities as well as government departments," Narayanan said.
He said contract labour system had expanded rapidly creating shortage of permanent employees and making it a means of enhancing profit in the public sector.
"We tried reasoning with the Labour Ministry several times but to no avail. The fixed-term employment is not just leading to rapid expansion of contract labour but also resulting in increasing the number of new unemployed youth.
"Therefore, we have to stand up to face the Himalayan challenge to make contract labour exploitation free," said Narayanan, adding that the Sep 6 nationwide agitation was only the beginning of a long haul fight to address the issue of rampant labour exploitation in the country.
The Atal Bihari Vajpayee-led NDA government had first allowed hiring fixed-term workers in 2003. This was scrapped in 2007 by the Congress-led UPA in 2007 following intense protests by trade unions.
After coming to power, the Modi government in April 2015 again mooted the concept by issuing draft rules for amending the Industrial Establishment (Standing Order). But the move was deferred following opposition from trade unions.
Union finance minister Arun Jaitley in his budget speech this year announced extending the facility of fixed term employment applicable only in the apparel manufacturing sector to all sectors.
Subsequently the Central government in March notified amending the Industrial Establishment (Standing Order) 1946 to extend the facility of hiring workers on fixed-term employment to all sectors.
Under the rules, a "fixed-term employment" workman is one who has been engaged on the basis of a written contract of employment for a fixed period.
The new rules, which provide that a temporary workman can be terminated without being given any notice of termination, has been widely condemned by all trade unions and they have been demanding its rollback.
The BMS has been vociferous in deriding the government's labour and economic policies and stridently opposed many of the labour reforms which it says has led to "continuous unrest among contract workers and increase in breakdown of industrial peace".
Apprehensive that the prevailing situation may lead to creation of "new conditions of bonded labour", the BMS, at its recently concluded National Executive Committee Meeting, adopted a resolution seeking immediate steps from the Centre to prevent open violations of labour laws.
"Incidents in Maruti Udyog at Manesar, Hyundai and Honda industries are vivid examples of the intense labour unrest. There is huge resentment among the entire labour sector. Unless steps are taken to resolve the issues, the situation will only worsen," warned Narayanan.
Highlighting the plight of contract labour, the BMS said these workers were denied any social security, pension, medical benefits, gratuity and leave. Besides being paid one-fourth of a permanent worker's wage, they were even denied minimum wages especially in the non-scheduled employment.
The BMS wants regularization of contract labour, amendment of relevant laws to secure "equal pay for similar work" and ensuring that contract workers were paid perks that permanent employees get.