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28 Nov

On Working Classes

On Working Classes
Globalisation has thrown big challenges before the working class movement. An important part of the globalisation agenda has been privatisation of public sector units in India, which has meant disinvestments from and privatisation of the public sector enterprises.
Among the main planks of the New Economic Policy are closure of sick and loss making public enterprises. Workers have faced the prospect of retrenchment. There have been cases of Voluntary Retirement Schemes [VRS]. Casualisation contractualisation of workers have been other accompaniments of globalisation.
The practice of keeping contract has become widespread. Many people havé argued that post-economic period has been a period of jobless growth. As part of Stabilisation and Structural Adjustment Programme; number of vacancies has decreased. There has been a marked decline in the growth rate of total employment in the organised sector in the 1990s as compared to 1980s. As part of the New Economic Policy the policy of downsizing has started. This for cost reduction.
Industrial Disputes Act 1947 lays reasonable restrictions on employers intending to undertake retrenchment or closure. This act stipulates that in case of retrenchment or closure due notice will have to be given to the union. In such situation the union and management have to devise ways and means to protect employment of the workers. It is obvious that labour laws regarding job security are being changed on the grounds of economic rationality. Downsizing in developed countries is less painful because of the fully developed social security system already in place. This unfortunately is not the case in developing countries like India. However, a National Renewal Fund was created to provide social safety net to the labour force rendered jobless as early as in 1992. Liberalisation has also meant relaxation in government control over the private sector as a result of which the bargaining power of labour vis-à-vis capital has come down.
There have been strikes by trade unions to protect the interest of workers in State Electricity Boards, ITDC hotels, nationalised banks etc. The introduction of the New Economic Policy has exposed the weaknesses of the working class movement. The response to the anti-labour reform policies cannot be effective because the trade unions are a divided house. Some scholars argue that working class movement should not be opposing privatisation and their focus should be protection of the interest of the workers. Ashutosh Varshney is of the view that it would be easier to launch bigger privatisation
Another cause of rising working class movements have been the increasing education and knowledge about the rights. Workers in Manesar plant knew that they were underpaid.
Similarly, increasing role of informal sector has led to reduced wage security and creating rising discontent
thus creating discontent among the workers.
Women form the most vulnerable section of workers as coupled with gender discrimination they are at greater risk of exploitation than other social groups.

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