CGU statement on the suspension of Indian labour laws

22 May 2020 11:37

The Council of Global Unions (CGU) – representing more than 200 million workers from across the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) and Global Union Federations including the Trade Union Advisory Committee to the OECD – wholeheartedly condemns the suspension of labour laws by some Indian states during the COVID-19 crisis. 

At least six Indian states have passed laws extending working hours from the currently mandated 8 hours per day to 12 hours per day, which will allow companies to extend a factory worker’s daily shift to 12 hours per day, six days a week (72 hours).

The suspension of labour laws which protect fundamental principles and rights at work, including protection from the violation of principles of freedom of association and forced and compulsory labour has no merit, will expose workers to harm, abuse and mistreatment and as well violate the government of India’s obligations under international labour standards.

The international trade union movement unreservedly supports the Central Trade Unions (CTUs) calls for a nationwide action on 22 May 2020 to oppose the suspension of laws designed to protect Indian workers and citizens’ safety, rights and welfare during this crisis. 

For workers, these violations are occurring in the wake of an alarming series of attacks on human rights and trade unions in India, as well as gross violations of workers’ rights including non-payment of wages. We are deeply concerned that the government will push through regressive labour legislation under the guise of COVID-19 related measures as demonstrated by the repeal of the State Migrant Workmen (Regulation of Employment and Conditions of Services) Act 1979.

On 11 December 2019, the government passed the Citizen Amendment Bill (CAB). This led to nationwide protests against the perceived marginalisation of Muslims. These protests were met with a disproportionate, brutal response incompatible with a functioning democracy. Every citizen of the world has the right to freedom of assembly, of expression and of association. We - the global labour movement - cannot allow these fundamental rights to be violated.

The CGU stands for all workers exercising their right to withdraw their labour to protect the lives and welfare of workers and their communities. The CGU stands against any persecution of organised labour, oppression of citizens, discrimination of vulnerable and minority communities, and any repression of workers and their trade unions. 

We stand with the workers of India – the young people, the working men and women of India – who are fighting for fairness, justice and fundamental human rights. 

The CGU and ITUC calls on the government of India to respect its obligations under international labour standards and ensure that Sates which have suspended its labour laws immediately reverse these measures.