In India, the draft rules on the scope of collective bargaining under the 2020 Industrial Relations Code were set out by Ministry of Labour on 4 May 2021. These rules listed, in a restrictive manner, the matters which the negotiating union or negotiating council may negotiate with the employer. The topics include grade classification, wages, allowances, bonuses and increments as well as working hours and rest days. This is the first time in the history of India’s labour legislation that collective bargaining has been restricted in such a manner.
At least eight people, including four farmers, were killed on 3 October 2021 when violence broke out in India’s Uttar Pradesh state. Two farmers were killed after a convoy of cars of the Home Ministry ran over a group of striking farmers. They were staging a demonstration on the road to protest against farm laws. In subsequent violence, two other farmers were killed by the police. Indian farmers had been protesting for over a year against the adoption of farm laws that will benefit corporations at the cost of millions of farmers. Police response became increasingly violent. In August 2021, in the northern Haryana state, one farmer was killed and ten others injured in police action during a protest against the farm laws.
Violent attacks on workers
On 11 April 2021, unemployed teachers and health workers, who were protesting jointly under an Unemployed Sanjha Morcha banner in Patiala, India, were baton-charged by the police after they tried to cross the police line in order to reach the chief minister’s residence.
Right to civil liberties
Sixty-seven workers and activists were detained by Tamil Nadu police during a protest on 18 December 2021 by electronics workers. They were detained for more than 24 hours. Twenty-two activists, including leaders of the IndianCentre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU), were put behind bars for extending support to the workers. The CITU leaders were granted bail and released on 23 December.
The protest – by around 3,000 women workers employed by Bharat FIH, a subsidiary of FIH Mobile and Foxconn Technology Group, which manufactures mobile phones – began on 17 December. It was triggered by an incident two days earlier in which 159 workers had fallen ill due to food poisoning at their hostel. The workers, all hired through contractors, had long complained of overcrowding and poor food.
In August 2021, the Kerala BankThiruvananthapuram district branch in India brought in new by-laws limiting the union activities of its staff. Under the new rules the unions may not intervene in any decisions relating to transfers. Shortly after that announcement, two women leaders of the Bank Employees Federation of India (BEFI) were transferred outside their district. Both women were members of the BEFI women’s subcommittee, and both worked in the same unit. They were transferred to two different places, with immediate effect. According to BEFI, they were transferred for taking union leave to take part in the union’s General Council convention.
Dismissals for participating in strike action
Around 1,400 striking workers of the National Health Mission (NHM) in India, including staff nurses, medical officers, homeopathy Ayurveda doctors and ministerial staff, were sacked by the Punjab government on 10 May 2021 for refusing to end their week-long strike. About 3,000 NHM workers walked out on strike to demand higher wages and permanent jobs. The sacked workers, who were fired through the Disaster Management Act, were from seven districts in Punjab.
Prosecution of union leaders for participating in strikes
Around 150 unemployed teachers were detained while over a dozen received minor injuries as police baton-charged them twice during a protest near Punjab’s chief minister’s residence in Patiala, India, on 8 June 2021, in a repeat of incidents earlier in the year.
Despite multiple assurances, the government had failed to provide them jobs in government schools. The five unions involved were frustrated at delays in meeting with the government officials and dealing with their demands. The teachers clashed with police as they were marching towards the chief minister’s residence. Those detained were later released without charge.