HISTORICAL BACKGROUND OF LABOUR LAWS

  • The History of Labour Laws in India goes back to Pre-Independence British Era as these Labour and Industrial Laws were enacted by British Administration to protect interests of British Employers and Industrialists.
  • Indian Textile Industry was giving tough competition to the British Textile therefore British Parliament introduced Factories Act in 1883. The Intent of introducing Factories Act was to increase the cost of Indian Labour thereby favoring British textile magnets from Lancashire and Manchester. As a result of this, India labour got a stipulated 8 hours a day work, introduction to overtime wages, abolition of Child Labour, and restriction of women working at night. While it benefited the labour market as a whole but the real motivation behind the move was to favor the wishes of vested interest.
  • Post World War I, Labour reforms were discussed internationally and the impact was seen in India with the introduction of Trade Union Act of 1923 and Industrial Disputes Act, 1929. The need was to regulate the relationship between employees and the employers. In these Acts, provisions were laid down to regulate the workers’ right to form Unions for collective bargaining, to protest via strikes and lockouts.
  • Amidst the world economic depression, associated rise in unemployment and continued agitation for Independence, the British government established the Royal Commission on Labour in 1929.
  • The commission received resistance and large scale boycott from the Indian labour movement. Nevertheless the Commission handed down its report and the outcome of these reports made way for a series of labour legislations from 1932 to 1937. Some of the key legislations passed included Payment of Wages Act, 1936 which empowered employers to deduct wages of employees absent from work without reasonable cause. Trade Disputes (Amendment) Act 1938, which authorized government to appoint conciliation officers to settle disputes.
  • On the other hand the labour laws of independent India also derive their origin, inspiration and strength partly from the views expressed by important nationalist leaders during the days of national freedom struggle, partly from the debates of the Constituent Assembly and partly from the provisions of the Constitution and the International Conventions and Recommendations.
  • The relevance of the dignity of human labour and the need for protecting and safeguarding the interest of labour as human beings has been enshrined in Chapter-III (Articles 16, 19, 23 & 24) and Chapter IV (Articles 39, 41, 42, 43, 43A & 54) of the Constitution of India keeping in line with Fundamental Rights and Directive Principles of State Policy.
  • The Labour Laws were also influenced by important human rights and the conventions and standards that have emerged from the United Nations. These include right to work of one’s choice, right against discrimination, prohibition of child labour, just and humane conditions of work, social security, protection of wages, redress of grievances, right to organize and form trade unions, collective bargaining and participation in management. Our labour laws have also been significantly influenced by the deliberations of the various Sessions of the Indian Labour Conference and the International Labour Conference.
  • Labour legislations have also been shaped and influenced by the recommendations of the various National Committees and Commissions such as First National Commission on Labour (1969) under the Chairmanship of Justice Gajendragadkar, National Commission on Rural Labour (1991), Second National Commission on Labour ( 2002) under the Chairmanship of Shri Ravindra Varma etc. and judicial pronouncements on labour related matters specifically pertaining to minimum wages, bonded labour, child labour, contract labour etc.