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Constitutional Rights of Workers in India

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Every labourer is worthy of his hire. No country can produce thousands of unpaid whole-time workers                                                                                                                                                              --- Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi

The substantive content of workers’ rights has changed over time. In the early period of the industrial revolution, it sought to protect the most vulnerable workers against physical and moral brutality, then to ensure that they worked in safe and healthy conditions and ultimately now it is in a phase where workers are to be paid enough to meet the normal needs of the average human being living in a civilized community. Workers rights are based at two dimensions; one at the individual level and other is collective rights, which have its roots in theories. However, from the end of the 19th century, workers rights were largely focused on collective issues. The Constitution of India was built on Justice, Liberty, Equality and Fraternity which set foundational goals for Indian society. Globalization, Privatization, and Liberalization being the central polices of Indian Governments since the year 1991, it was  important to bring back the focus on worker’s rights through basic law doctrine of India i.e. Constitution of India.

The rights promote workers to organize for collective bargaining for securing social justice. Hence main goal of workers right is to uplift the powerless workers to securing for themselves welfare and social security. Workers’ rights are legal framework for providing welfare facilities to the workers. The workers’ rights in Indian Constitution has been designed in such a manner as to secure the workers from undue exploitation but law itself cannot offer protection unless there is a sense of awareness of its existence among workers, in this direction education of workers requires to be given top most priority so they become conscious of their rights. Ahuja (1998) said that the basic purpose of workers’ rights is to enrich the life of workers, keep them happy and conducted. Some of important Constitutional provisions regarding workers rights: 

Article 14th of the Indian Constitution explains the concept of Equality before law. Equality before the law means that among equals the law should be equal and should be equally administered and labour laws must be equally applicable on all workers, rules and regulation. It must be same for all workers in any premises without any discrimination on the basis of caste, class, religion, race and sex.

Article 15th of the Indian Constitution talks about the prohibition of discrimination on the grounds of caste, class, religion, race and sex means there should not be any kind of discrimination in the workplace by the employer, manager or supervisor on workers. All workers must be treated equally.

Article 19(1, c) of the Indian Constitution provide the workers right to form an associations and unions, participate in trade union movements. Under clause (4) Of Article 19, however, the State may by law impose reasonable restrictions on this right in the interest of public order or morality or the sovereignty and integrity of India. The right of association pre-supposes organization. It is a temporary or permanent organization of workers for the protection of interest of their members. It promotes the peaceful and harmonious relationship within the organization. Collective bargaining power of workers is realized through this article.

Article 23rd of the Indian Constitution prohibits tariff of bonded and forced labor in any form of employment. This article promotes the decent work for workforce. The second part of this Article imposes a positive obligation on the State to take steps to abolish forced labour wherever they are found.

Article 38th of the Indian Constitution said it is responsibility of state to promote welfare of workers through certain policy, programs and legislation for improving the social functioning of them. And also secure the interest of workers by making provisions of their interest.

Article 39th of the Indian Constitution promotes equality on the basis of sex, article inherent that men and women both are equal so it is employers’ responsibility to provide equal wages to men and women for equal work. Article said health and strength of workers should be maintained and promoted by the employer through providing healthy working environment to their workers.

Article 42nd of the Indian Constitution talks about the promotion of peaceful and healthy working condition for workers to secure their health. And article also have provision of maternity benefit for working women, maternity benefits includes leave with wages for pregnancy days and after the birth of child for specific period of time.

Article, 43rd of the Indian Constitution clearly states that it is responsibility of the state to secure living wages, good conditions of work, ensuring a decent standard of life and provide social and cultural opportunities to the workers by enacting suitable legislations.

Article, 43rd (a) of the Indian Constitution promotes the workers participation in management and other processes of organization. Participation can improve the relationship between employer and workers and minimize the industrial conflicts. Through participation in managerial process workers feels motivated, secured and empowered.

A number of Constitutional provisions along with International treaties, provisions incorporated in legislative framework so that a decent work culture can be placed throughout the country. But reality is just contrary to the provisions available on the record. There are around more than 40 labour laws in India to safeguard the worker’s individual as well as collective rights but gradually systems neglected and weakened who were responsible, capable to implement labour laws. We more focused on bringing legislations but completely ignored to strengthen systems to implement these laws. Most of labour department’s bodies have not sufficient number of staffs, lack in specialization and training to handle issues. Civil Societies Organisations has been raising these issues for number of years but needed action not taken in this regard. Any of nations progress largely depends on the health of their workforce. No doubt, healthy workforce play huge role in nation building.. It is responsibility of State and its government to maintain and protect their rights. Based on the framework of the fundamental rights and directive principles incorportated in the Constitution, four main branches of legislation related to workers in India provide a large number of central labour legislations for securing the interest of workers. These legislations can be classified into: legislation related to welfare; wages; social security; and industrial relations. Now focus need to be given agencies so that reality of the Constitution will be reflected at the grass root in parctice.

Salman, M.Phil Second Year Student at Department of Social Work, University of Delhi

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