November 14 & 15, 2009, Mumbai, India
On 14-15 November 2009, Focus on the Global South, along with HRLN (Human Rights Law Network) and TISS (Tata Institute of Social Sciences) co-organised a two-day workshop on ‘Financial Crisis and Job Losses: A working class response’. This workshop was held in Mumbai at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences. Social activists, trade union activists and labour lawyers where present from different parts of the country. The two-day conference focused mainly the labour law scenario in the country and how struggles could evolve to protect the existing workforce – both organised and unorganised. The main issues covered were; Closures, Sickness and Non Payment of Dues & Downsizing, Outsourcing, and Pay Cuts. A brief presentation on labour laws in SEZ was also made.
The conference began with a brief talk by noted labour lawyer and activist Colin Gonsalves (Delhi) on the legal trends in the Supreme Courts. It was evident from the discussions that uniting the workforce across different sectors was an important step in strengthening trade unions. Trade unions, especially from the docks / shipping sector spoke about how the economic reforms in the early 90s sowed the seeds of privatisation, with the recent financial crisis aggravating the condition further.
Important points raised / discussed:
1. Companies/ Employers must open Escrow accounts with the bank to take care of workers in case of closure.
2. Habitual bank loan defaulters should be made public.
3. Workers dues should be given preference during recovery of NPA (Non-Performing Asset)
4. After the loss of jobs due to closure, trade unions must also think about
5. Look at alternative employment for workers after closure
6. There should be a labour audit to confirm that companies are labour law compliant, before granting them any accreditation.
7. Labour policies must not only protect workers rights but also include job creation and security.
1. Banks must reveal names of defaulters and black list employees for mis-management of loan accounts.
2. Work towards organising the un-organised and restore the right of workers to unionise.
3. Amendment in Mathadi workers act
4. Push for more judicial accountability, especially corruption and in giving appropriate judgements.
5. Implementation of labour laws at all levels should be taken by vigourously by all lawyers and trade unions.
6. Right of employer to ‘Notice of change’ must be extended to workers and unions.
In the last session, at the end of the second day, the main agenda was
summing up the shared experiences and identifying strategic plans for
o On Closures: Push to include workers rights and legal dues in the
securitisation and DRT act. Take this up with the Bank Employees Union
o Co-ordination between Bank Employees Union and Unions of closed companies
o Networking. Formulate a network of lawyers and activists on labour law information, etc.
o Push for amendment of Section 10 of Contract Labour act
o Extending complete support to the bank employees union on their stand
of un-lawful merger of banks, making the names of NPAs public.
On the whole, the two day conference was quite successful in getting an
active participation to discuss various aspects of workers rights,
especially under the legal purview, DRT act and of contract workers,
and evolve actions to initiate, coordinate and push for stringent
protection of workers rights and amendments in labour laws / acts to