HRLN ‘s work in labor rights has its roots in the trade union struggle in Mumbai. In India only a minuscule fraction of the workforce is organised, most of which is in urban areas, leaving the rest of the working class vulnerable to blatant exploitation. As a result, closures and job losses, sub-minimum wages, bonded and slave labour, contract labour, discrimination against women and the siphoning away of money from the workers' funds characterize Indian labour.
Although Indian labour laws are amongst the best in the world, their implementation is slow and obstructed by corruption. Over the last fifteen years, under the impact of globalization, privatization and structural adjustment policies the situation is further deteriorating. Despite stiff opposition from trade unions the government succeeded in making major inroads into worker’s rights.
WHAT WE DO
The Labor Rights Initiative work nation – wide in both rural and urban areas, with organized and unorganized sector on several issues. HRLN lawyers have filed several cases in Supreme Court and High Court representing workers on the basis of discrimination, illegal closures, illegal termination, starvation death cases, minimum wages, no-pay and others.
We conduct investigation into safety and welfare measures for construction workers as per the Building And Other Construction Workers Welfare Cess Act, 1996. We also conduct people’s tribunal where victims give testimonies on how they have been affected by Corporate Crimes. Such as the IPT on Corporate Accountability . The objective behind these peoples tribunal is to identify measures for remedying loopholes and provisions in the existing legal and government structure that allow corporations to abuse human rights and environment without any fear of punishment. By organizing Consultation at a national level we give organizations, trade unions, labor lawyers, judges , journalist, academicians and other professionals across the country a platform to present their struggles on variety of labour right issues and work together for bringing about a change. The initiative exposes employers crime in cases of starvation deaths ( especially those in textile industries) and seek retribution on behalf of deceased and address the root cause of death.
HRLN widely publishes on labor rights topics ranging from posters on occupational health and safety issues for use in the workplace to compilation of landmark judgments. It works at the grass roots level to assist workers and surrounding communities in campaigning against specific companies. Conducting investigations on issues of safety and welfare measures for construction workers as per the Building and Other Construction Workers Welfare Cress Act , 1996.
Though there are laws prohibiting closure of a factory without prior government permission, illegal closures are common HRLN has often intervened where courts have inducted closures in several cases. We has also intervened in cases relating to wages of workers such as in the case of Girni Kamagar Sangarsh Samiti vs Matulya Mills Limited the court’s remarkable judgement that a company ‘s inability to pay is no defence for non payment of the wages of the workmen bring about a change in rights of workers in relation to their wages.
It was HRLN to file a PIL on behalf of the Occupational Health and Safety Association in respect to alarming levels of increased levels of increased toxic air pollutants in and around thermal power plant which lead to many occupation diseases among the workers in the surrounding communities. The Supreme Court directed the agencies to take several actions which benefited the thousands of workers. These include free and comprehensive medical checkups continuation of work contracts during illness, occupational disease compensation, modern protective equipment, strict measures for the control of dust, heat, noise, vibration and radiation and adherence to the code of practice and occupational safety and health audit as developed by the Bureau of Indian Standards.
Tens of thousands of tea plantation workers have benefited from the PIL filed by HRLN on the condition of workers. In a landmark judgement by the Supreme Court of India which issued a notice and the government bought out a notification to cater to the health, education, food and livelihood of the workers and their families by reviving the plantations and including them in various schemes.
HRLN has always criticized the act of contract labor and take up several cases demanding that the workers to be made permanent. In Kachara Vahatuk Shramik Sangh vs Bomaby Municipal Corporation the High Court of Bombay held that removal of rubbish was statutory duty and was open to corporations to give this work out to contractors . But after HRLN appealed in the Supreme Court it set aside the decision of high court and regularised 800 workers bringing justice to them. Similarly in the case of Rajkumar vs Union of India, HRLN lawyers demanded for the abolishment of the contract labor system at the Delhi airports. Though the contract labor board upheld the case against the workers the High Court ordered the board to make fresh decision after HRLN’ s intervention.