May Day is celebrated in the whole universe to remember the great sacrifice made by the workers for the cause of workers right. The bloodshed of Chicago on one hand shocked the working class globally on the other became a great motivational force for labour to fight for their interest with greater resolve and enthusiasm. The incident increased the pace of trade union movement.


In India industrialization started around 1850 with the commissions of Jute Mills in Kolkata    ( the then Calcutta) and Textile Mills at Mumbai (the then Bombay) so was the trade union movement with the establishment of trade based union like “Mill hand Association”, Calcutta Printer Association, Postal union etc. Great leaders like L.M.Lokhandey, B.P.Badia, N.M.Joshi  and others led the initial trade union movement in India workers were treated like slave, servant. The first collective action on the issue of labour dignity or self joint respect is said to be the stoppage of work when a Loco Forman  slapped one worker (which was normally not reacted). The result was the Forman had to regret his action and workers also had to give an undertaking not to go on strike in future but it was successful in more than one sense (a) the workers could go on collective action (b) the incident could create a feeling of self respect among the workers, since then the trade union on the basis of their unity could achieve a lot.


In 1910 the trade union in Bombay went on an “indefinite Strike” which was a grand success not on any economic demand but on some very vital issues of national importance i.e. “Freedom Movement”. You may remember that all national leaders were rounded up in Mumbai’  in 2010 by the British. It was the pressure which working class put by observing total Bandh in protest of arrest of national leaders which compelled British Authorities to release all national level leaders. It itself show that when the need be trade union have led from the front in the Freedom Movement as well.  It was strong trade union movement in pre and post independence period which could achieve numerous protection and labour laws such as Workmen (now employees) Compensation Act 1923, Trade Union Act 1926, Payment of Wages Act 1936, Industrial Employment Standing order Act 1946, Industrial Disputes Act 1947 (enforced from 1.4.1947), ESI Act ;1948, Factories Act 1881 amended from time to time. Minimum Wages Act1948, Mines Act 1952, Payment of Bonus Act 1965, Payment of Gratuity Act 1972, Child Labour (Elimination and Rehabilitation) Act 1986, Maternity Benefit Act 1961, Contract Labour Act 1970, Apprenticeship Act 1961. 

The International Organizations like League of Nations, International Labour Organization and United Nations Organizations also played very proactive and supportive role for safeguarding workers right.

Famous statement in Philadelphia conference of ILO in 1944 that “labour is not a commodity” spoke very loudly their concern for labour. This period will be known as period of Mushrooming trade unions, period of long trade union actions, a mixed of success and failure. India opened its economy in 1991 with new Economic Policy moving towards globalization.

The role of Government has also changed “from custodian of labour” it has now become “facilitator of employers”. The Government on number of occasions has said “Government has no business to run the business” The trade union movement is passing through a serious phase globally. The employers and governments are seen hands in glove to attack the trade union movement. Trade union, human rights of worker which is evident from the following facts.

Total global workforce is around 3 billion only 60 percent workers are employed in formal economy globally, out of these 50 percent are in insecure work with short term contract and often unsafe work. More than 45 Million people are in modern slavery, force labour, global GDP has noticed 3 time increase since 1980. Yet the labour share has declined. Right to work and dignity of labour are either denied or under mined in most of the countries. Severe lack of social protection including health and education especially for poor. A war against unions is being waged and democracy  corrupted by concentrated wealth.

India is no exception to the situation. A remarkable change in Government policies regarding labour has been noticed during last 2-3 years. The union government alongwith some State Governments have engaged in an onslaught attack on working class by proposing or amending, diluting, snatching hard earned labour friendly provisions of major Labour Laws.


The Government have amended or proposed to amend Trade Union Act 1926, Factory Act 1948, Industrial Employment Standing Rules (Central) 1946, Apprenticeship Act 1961, Payment of Bonus Act 1965, Employees Provident fund and Misc. Provisions Act 1952, Child Labour Act 1986, Contract Act 1970, ESI Act 1948 etc. will be exempted from the 14 major labour Acts,.


It has brought Small Factories Bill for establishments employing less than 40 workers which has been exempted from 14 basic labour laws. It has also brought Shop and Establishment Act.  At one end Government proposed amendments in existing labour laws, on the other it has decided to amalgamate 44 Central Labour Laws in 4-5 Labour Codes. The Labour Code on Industrial Relations, Labour Code on Wages and Labour Code on Social Security drafts have come in public domain, Government has introduced “fixed term employment”.  The basic purpose of these amendments/ proposed amendments is how to curtail/dilute or snatch the workers protection and provide conducive environment for hire and fire to employers and facilitate them in the name of “Start Up’, “Skill India”, “Make in India”, “Smart India”, “ease of doing business” etc.


Government with the amendment in Factories Act 1948 Section 64-65 has enhanced the maximum number of hours of overtime in one quarter from 50 hrs. to 125 hrs, has enhanced the threshold limit of workers for any enterprise to be factory from 10 to 20 for those not using power and from 20 to 40 for those using power. Amending Chapter VB of Industrial dispute Act 1947 enhanced the threshold limit for employees to obtain prior permission for lay off, lock out and closure from 100 to 300 employees. In Contract Labour Act.,  the threshold limit of workers has been raised from 20 to 50. Now it will be applicable on establishments employing 50 contract workers. These are very few examples. Inspection have been discouraged, restricted or minimised despite the fact that India has ratified the ILO Convention pertaining to Inspections, Convention 81, women workers have been allowed to work in night shift. Under proposed amendment the trade unions working in organised sector will not have any outsider even a retired employee in the Executive Body and those working in unorganised sector can have maximum two outsiders.

Government has introduced 100 percent Foreign direct Investment in core industries like Railways, Bank, Insurance and strategically most sensitive sector of Defence production. It is increasing disinvestment from Public Sector Undertakings, making roads to private players, domestic and Global Corporate Houses.

India has ratified ILO Convention 144 on Tripartite Mechanism. Has its own Tripartite mechanism in the name of Indian Labour conference but while doing the above amendments the Government initially avoided tripartite discussions but when the pressure from International and National Agencies increased it started the same but only for name sake.

The 7th Central Pay Commission Recommendations are also the worse ever recommendations so far. We could get around 40 percent hike in 6th Central Pay Commission but 7th Central Pay Commission recommended around 14 percent which practically comes less than 10 percent in certain cases, has withdrawn several allowances. The Sub-Committees formed to review allowances have not come out with their decision.

These issues cannot be fought out individually. It is high time for Trade Union Unity and Solidarity to fight out these challenges. The need of trade union solidarity is more than ever. Central Trade Unions in a meeting held on 7th April 2017 have decided to organised another meeting of Central Trade Unions and other workers/employees Federation on 30th May 2017 at Gandhi Peace foundation, New Delhi to decide the future course of Action.

On this May Day Hind Mazdoor Sabha appeals the aentire working class of the country including the unorganised workers who form 94% of the total workforce to unite and work for a national level united, decisive battle to protect the basic existence of the trade union movement.

With hearty good wishes for May Day



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