Last Updated: Monday, 22 January 2018, 12:53 GMT

2012 Annual Survey of Violations of Trade Union Rights - India

Publisher International Trade Union Confederation
Publication Date 6 June 2012
Cite as International Trade Union Confederation, 2012 Annual Survey of Violations of Trade Union Rights - India, 6 June 2012, available at: [accessed 23 January 2018]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Population: 1,224,000,000
Capital: New Delhi

ILO Core Conventions Ratified:

29 (Forced Labour (1930))
100 (Equal Remuneration for Work of Equal Value (1951))
105 (Abolition of Forced Labour (1957))
111 (Discrimination in Employment and Occupation (1958))

Reported Violations – 2012

Threats: 5
Injuries: 179
Arrests: 2,087
Imprisonments: 100
Dismissals: 2,709

Documented violations – actual number of cases may be higher


India's workers faced numerous efforts to undermine effective union representation – often with the help of the government. Many workers were arrested during mass national protests. Despite these adversities, India's unions continued to press for improved worker rights. Importantly, Indian's courts also issued decisions limiting the use of casual and contract employees.


Despite the serious social and economic problems faced by India's peoples, social activist Anna Hazare captured their hearts and minds in his fight against rampant corruption in India's government affairs. On 27 August, Hazare ended his 12-day fast that united India in pressing for legal reforms against corruption. India's lawmakers have pledged to act on Hazare's demands. The protest bore fruit when India's parliament approved the "Lokpal" or ombudsman bill on 28 December. The law created a powerful new ombudsman tasked with probing and prosecuting senior politicians and civil servants suspected of graft.

On 23 February, around 200,000 workers demonstrated in New Delhi demanding price controls on essential commodities, strict enforcement of labour laws, employment protection, a stop to privatisation of government services, and the universal application of social security for all workers. Workers from major trade unions centres to include the Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU), the Indian National Trade Union Congress (INTUC), the All-India Trade Union Congress (AITUC), the Hind Mazdoor Sabha (HMS), the All-India United Trade Union Centre (AIUTUC), the Trade Union Coordination Centre (TUCC), the All-India Central Council of Trade Unions (ACCTU) and the United Trade Union Congress (UTUC) along with Independent Workers' and Employees' Federations, participated in the march.

On 8 November, over 1,000,000 workers under the banner of all 11 trade union centres [CITU, the Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh (BMS), INTUC, AITUC, HMS, AICCTU, AIUTUC, UTUC, TUCC, Labour Progressive Federation (LPF), and the Self-Employed Women's Association of India (SEWA)] courted arrest in demonstrations to express their dissatisfaction with the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government's policies towards working people. Workers from both the organised and unorganised sector in more than 500 out of the 640 districts in the country demonstrated to support demands that included: a minimum wage of INR 10,000 per month; a decrease in price of essential commodities; a halt to further privatisation of government services; universal social security coverage; and compulsory registration of trade unions within 45 days. Police arrested over 122,000 demonstrators in Tripura and 32 workers were injured in Malda, West Bengal, when police charged demonstrators with canes.

On 10 March, Union Labour Minister Mallikarjun Kharge said that India would not ratify ILO Conventions 87 and 98 – core conventions on the right of workers to form a union and engage in collective bargaining. Kharge said that unions in India were governed by central and state statutes and were not dependent on ratification of ILO conventions.

Both the garment sector and the tea industry saw significant strikes. In Ludhiana, Punjab, nearly 2,500 textile workers from more than 155 factories went on strike on 21 September under the banner of the Textile Mazdoor Union (TMU) for higher wages and safe working conditions . On 25 July and 9 August, some 2,500,000 Progressive Tea Workers' Union (PTWU) members across 158 gardens in the Dooars and 50 in the Terai areas of Jalpaiguri District, West Bengal, went on one day strikes against the tea estate managers for not agreeing to their demand for a daily wage of IRS250 (USD5.00).

Trade union rights in law

Many restrictions on trade union rights apply in particular in the various states. Workers may establish and join unions of their own choosing; however, in Sikkim registration of a trade union is subject to a police inquiry and prior permission from the state government. The public also has an opportunity to object to the creation of a union and prevent its registration. In all of India, a union must represent an inordinate 100 workers or 10% of the workforce in order to register, and the law limits the number of "outsiders" to sit on a union executive committee.

There is no legal obligation on employers to recognise a union or engage in collective bargaining. Public service workers enjoy very limited rights to organise and bargain. Furthermore, no government servant may resort to any form of strike, and the government may also demand conciliation or arbitration in certain "essential" industries. As the law does not specify which these industries are, the interpretation varies from one state to another.

While strikes are permitted in special economic zones, a burdensome 45-day strike notice period is required. In Kerala, general strikes are illegal and organisers of such a strike can be held financially liable for damages caused to an employer, while in Tamul Nadu, the Essential Services Maintenance Act prescribes imprisonment of up to three years and a fine of INR 5,000 for participation in strikes in "essential services".

Link to additional detailed information regarding the legislation on the ITUC website here

In practice

No entry for this country for this year


Strike against outsourcing plan at Bosch plant declared illegal: In late September, 4,000 workers at the German-owned Bosch plant in Adugodi, Karnataka, represented by the MICO Employees' Association (MEA) went on strike to protest the company's plan to outsource work. MEA ended the strike on 14 October after Karnataka government officials declared the strike illegal.

Workers Score Victories Against Precarious Work in Court:

India's courts issued numerous decisions that limited the current and future use of casual and contract employees. However, court decisions are often openly flouted and ignored by State and local governments and private enterprises.

On 18 January, India's Supreme Court invalidated a Punjab and Harayana State practice in place since 1978 that had kept employees from becoming a regular employee. The States had been giving employees a one day break after 179 days to prevent the employee from attaining regular status.

On 27 March, the Supreme Court ruled against the Gahauti State government regarding its practice of preventing employees from becoming regular employees by imposing a one day break of service on employees every six months. The case involved workers with the Border Roads Organisation (BRO) represented by the Vartak Labour Union (VLU).

On 11 March, about 950 workers at the Wheels India Ltd (WI) unit at Ranjangaon, Pune, represented by the Workers of Wheels India Employees' Union (WIEU), affiliated of Shramik Ekta Maha Sangh (SEMS) went on strike in support of the union's demand that WI comply with the statutory provisions of the Contract Labour Act (Regulation and Abolition) of 1970 which states that contract labour cannot be used for work that is permanent in nature. WI employs 159 regular workers and 800 contract workers performing permanent jobs. WIEU demands that WI convert contract workers to regular status with equal pay and benefits provided to regular employees.

On 21 March, the Chhattisgarh State High Court ruled that Swiss-owned Holcim Cement's subsidiary Associated Cement Company Ltd (ACC) at Jamul had to convert 100 of its contract workers to regular employees. However, Holcim refused to implement the order. ACC workers are represented by the Pragatisheel Cement Shramik Sangh. Holcim bought controlling interest in ACC and Ambuja Cement in 2006-2007 and has continued to frustrate the legitimate rights of contract workers at these plants.

On 2 November, the Madras High Court ordered the reinstatement of 85 temporary sanitation workers of Rajapalayam Municipality. The workers, who the city had employed since 1989 on a year-to-year basis, went on strike in 2002 to demand the conversion of their employment to regular status. Even though the strike ended without resolution, the Municipality dismissed the workers and outsourced the work to private contractors. The High Court ruled that the Municipality could not dismiss the workers in the absence of any specific misconduct.

Employer Retaliation against Striking Workers, With Government Help:

On 3 February in Bhopal and other locations in Madhya Pradesh, 202 striking nurses represented by the Madhya Pradesh Nurses Association (MPNA) were arrested and 14 were suspended from work for striking in violation of the Emergency Services Maintenance Act (ESMA). The main issue in the strike was that the Madhya Pradesh government failed to implement the provisions of the Sixth Pay Commission.

On 3 March, the Council of Teachers' Association (COTA) and the Manipur State Government signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) that settled a rolling hunger strike that started on 19 January. Manipur police arrested and imprisoned 239 teachers during the strike. The teachers were released from prison as part of the strike settlement. They too struck over the fact that the Manipur government had failed to implement the provisions of the Sixth Pay Commission.

On 26 April, about 800 Air India (AI) pilots represented by the Indian Commercial Pilots' Association (ICPA) went on strike after negotiations failed with the airline over wage parity issues and better working conditions. The ICPA represents pilots who flew for the domestic carrier Indian Airlines before a merger with Air India. AI declared the strike illegal and on 27 April AI dismissed six ICPA union leaders including its President A S Bhinder and General Secretary Rishabh Kapur, suspended two other pilots, withdrew recognition from the ICPA, and sealed ICPA offices in Delhi and Mumbai. In addition, the Delhi High Court ordered the ICPA to end their strike. When ICPA members refused to return to work, the Delhi High Court initiated contempt proceedings against ICPA on 29 April and subsequently issued contempt notices to nine ICPA officials on 3 May. On 6 May, ICPA ended the strike after reaching a settlement with AI management. AI agreed to reinstate 15 dismissed pilots, reinstate the union's representation status, and participate in a three-member committee formed by the government to investigate the pilots' demands. However the contempt proceeding against ICPA remained unresolved. On 5 August, the Delhi High Court told the ICPA leadership to publicly apologise for the strike and the ICPA complied.

On 20 September, the Andhra Pradesh State Road Transport Corporation (APSRTC) terminated 1,355 contract workers for participating in a general strike in Telangana.

On 7 June in Maharashtra, Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) Commissioner Subodh Kumar warned municipal employees who participated in union strikes or agitations that they stand to lose their jobs and housing. In a memo issued to the more than 80,000 municipal employees and their unions, Kumar also said that striking workers would compensate the Municipality for financial losses caused by any strike from their salaries.

On 8 June, a Gurgaon city court in Harayana issued restraining orders against the members of the Haryana Roadways Sarv Karamchari Union (HRSKU) from picketing within a 200 meters radius from the outer periphery of the Roadways depot.

On 24 October, unions representing 750 workers at the Taiwan-based Wintek Industries (Wintek) mobile phone parts factory in Chennai, Tamil Nadu, went on strike in support of their demand for a wage increase. On 18 November, Wintek dismissed 200 contract workers and 28 union members. The unions ended the strike on 24 November.

On 7 November, police arrested over 1,000 contract teachers in Chhattisgarh, who went on strike on 1 November in support of their demands for a salary increase. The teachers were arrested for violating the Essential Services Maintenance Act (ESMA). The teachers were detained in Raipur several jails in Raipur District. It was also reported that several teachers from Raipur were missing after their arrests.

As the year ended, it appeared that a strike by 6,500 members All Rajasthan In-Service Doctors Association (ARISDA) in Rajasthan State was coming to an end. ARISDA went on strike on 21 December in support of their demands for a pay raise and promotions based on defined time frames. They were supported by nearly 3,500 resident doctors, 20,000 National Rural Health Mission (NRHM) contract employees and the Rajasthan Medical College Teachers Association who joined the strike. The state government invoked the Rajasthan Essential Services Maintenance Act (RESMA) in response to the strike and ordered the striking doctors to return to work. On 25 December, state officials dismissed Chief Medical and Health Officers (CMHOs) Yaduveer Singh Rathore and Dulichand and ten other doctors throughout the state for being involved in the strike. During the strike, the state suspended 64 doctors and arrested 515. Those arrested included ARISDA President GD Maheshwari, ARISDA General Secretary Nasrin Bharti, ARISDA Vice-president Ajay Choudhary, President of Jaipur Association of Resident Doctors (JARD) Ashok Jhajaria and Senior Resident Doctors' Association President Rajvendra Choudhary. All those arrested were charged with violating RESMA and Section 151 of India's Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC). On 31 December, the state government lifted RESMA and issued ordered the release of the 70 doctors who remained in jail paving the way for ending the 11-day strike.

Police Violence against Trade Unionists Who Demand Their Rights:

On 6 March, near Badal Village, Punjab, police attacked and injured scores of demonstrating members of the Contract Multipurpose Health Workers Union. Police attacked the demonstrators when the union members attempted to march towards the Punjab Chief Minister's native village to lodge a protest and demand regularisation of their jobs. Six injured workers were admitted to hospitals in Badal and Lambi Villages, while 30 others, including 25 women, were detained by the police.

On 7 April, Police Inspector T. Trinadha Rao repeatedly attacked female government Accredited Social Health Activists (ASHA) workers with canes when they were demonstrating outside District Medical & Health Officer's office in Vizianagaram, Andhra Pradesh. District General Secretary of the Andhra Pradesh Voluntary Workers Union (APVWU) B. Sudha Rani said that Rao's assaults included an attack on a woman who was five-months pregnant. Two women, Allu Satyavathi and Garbhapu Bhanu Kumari, were seriously injured and admitted to the district headquarters hospital for treatment. Twenty-four ASHA workers and a few Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU) leaders were arrested.

A group of workers who went on strike in April at a brick kiln factory in Kheda District, Gujarat, were reportedly warned that the owners would "kill them and rape their women" for refusing to work and complaining about wages to the authorities. After the warning, about 40 workers fled the factory.

Hired thugs attack garment workers attending May Day rally. On May 3, armed thugs hired by owners of the Ankur Udyog (AU) garment factory in Gorakhpur, Uttar Pradesh, physically attacked and fired gunshots at hundreds of company employees after they attended a May Day rally in Delhi. Over 20 employees were injured and 18 were hospitalised, including one worker who has a bullet wound in his back. Police made no arrest in connection with the incident.

On 3 June, VN Dyers Yarn and Textile Mills (VN) in Gorakhpur, Uttar Pradesh, agreed to reopen their plants and reinstate 18 dismissed workers in to end a four-day sit-in strike. About 500 VN Dyers workers were locked out after walking off the job on 10 April in a dispute over wages. On 20 May, 25 VN workers were severely injured and 73 arrested when police attempted to stop them meeting with the District Magistrate over their dispute. The workers occupied the yarn mill on 30 May when the VN owners announced that they would restart it with new employees.

On 21 October, police cane charged around 250 nurses of from the Asian Heart Institute (AHI), Mumbai, Maharashtra, who were protesting over the suicide of a fellow nurse on 18 October. Three nurses were injured in the attack. The nurses were also protesting AHI's bonded labour policy of retaining the nurses' licenses for a period of two years. If the nurse wants to obtain his/her licenses before the 2 year period expires, a payment of IRS 50,000 (USD1,000.00) must be made to AHI. On 12 November, the Indian Professional Nurses Association (IPNA) brought the plight of the nurses at the AHI to India's Supreme Court. The IPNA noted that nurses at AHI and at other facilities throughout India are not paid minimum wage but are compelled to sign vouchers that say that they are. In addition, the IPNA noted that nurses were compelled to execute service bonds at the time of their joining service and most of the private hospitals were withholding their original licenses.

On 4 November, two workers and a reporter were hospitalised after police fired teargas and cane-charged workers picketing at Dr. Reddy's Laboratory (DRL) in Pydibhimavaram, Andhra Pradesh. DRL workers are represented by Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU). DRL is India's second-largest pharmaceutical manufacturer, employing 13,500 workers with markets in India, Europe and the US.

On 26 November, nine workers were detained and several injured when police used tear gas and batons against striking workers at the state-owned Wonder Cement factory in Chittorgarh, Rajastan. The strike was sparked after factory management only paid IRS100,000 (USD2,200) compensation to the family a worker who was killed in a work related accident.

On 6 December, police baton charged about 190 nurses represented by the United Nurses Organisation (UNO) who went on strike at the Amrita Institute of Medical Sciences (AIMS) in Kochi, Kerala. Three nurses were injured in the attack. The nurses went on strike after AIMS dismissed the UNO President and transferred the UNO General Secretary to another facility. ANO was formed on 2 December. The strike ended on 8 December when AIMS agreed to rescind the actions against the UNO leaders and enter into negotiations with the union.

Union Recognition Denied:

Ford India workers strike for recognition: On 7 March, Ford India Employees Union (FIEU) served a 15 day strike notice on Ford India's (FI) plant at Maraimalai Nagarin in Tamil Nadu. The union's primary demand is that FI recognise the union.

Comstar continues to deny union recognition: About 425 Comstar Automotive Technologies Pvt Ltd (Comstar) workers represented by the Comstar Automotive Technologies Employees' Union (CATEU) went on strike on 11 August in support of their demands for union recognition and negotiations for on a new contract that expired last March. Since the strike began, Comstar has suspended four workers for distributing leaflets to their co-workers and filed a false complaint with police that workers assaulted a company official. CATEU member Rajasekar said that Comstar has refused to recognise the union since its formation in 2004 and has been exerting pressure on workers to join a committee formed by management. Comstar is located in Maraimalai Nagar, a suburb of Chennai, Tamil Nadu, and manufactures auto components for Ford Motor Company, Volvo, Tata Motors and others.

Maruti-Suzuki India denies union representation: Between 3 June and 21 October, workers at the Maruti-Suzuki India Ltd (MSI) plant at Manesar, Harayana, fought unsuccessfully for the registration of the Maruti Suzuki Employees' Union (MSEU). Japan's Suzuki Motor Corporation owns a 54.2% stake in MSI. The four and a half month struggle was marked by two MSEU strikes, one lockout imposed by MSI, the arrest of employees, MSI's summary dismissal of over 1,000 contract workers and sympathy strikes by thousands of other workers. During the course of the strikes and lockout, MSI dismissed 80 workers and suspended 49 – including many MSEU leaders. Police arrested MSEU President Sonu Gujjar, General Secretary Shiv Kumar, and Executive Member Ravinder Kumar as they left a negotiations session with MSI and the Harayana Labour Ministry officials. They were charged with various violations of the Indian Penal Code included rioting, assault and making death threats. The Harayana government also denied to process MSEU's application for union registration. A private labour contractor who contracts with SMI opened fire on striking workers wounding three. The 30 MSI workers who still faced discipline pending investigation after the last strike settlement in October resigned after reaching a settlement with MSI. Former MSEU leader Shiv Kumar confirmed that the 30 suspended workers resigned after each accepted a cash and severance package totalling IRS 1,600,000 (US$31,140.00).

Unilever stalls union recognition: Nearly four years after Unilever's personal products factory at Doom Dooma, Assam, tried to destroy the union with a punishing six-week lockout, and almost one year since the IUF and Unilever formally concluded an agreement to settle the dispute under the auspices of the UK government, the workers are still waiting for their union to be recognised as their collective bargaining agent.

Hyundai installs yellow union: On 12 May, the Indian subsidiary of Korean-owned automaker Hyundai, Hyundai Motor India, Ltd (HMIL), recognised the newly-formed United Union of Hyundai Employees (UUHE) after refusing to recognise Hyundai Motor India Employees Union (HMIEU) since 2007. In response, HMIEU demanded the holding of secret ballot to determine which union has a majority representation and served a strike notice on HMIL. HMIEU is affiliated with the CITU and elected Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU) General Secretary A. Soundararajan as HMIEU President. HMIL had previously refused to recognise HMIEU on the grounds that the company had a committee to take care of workers' issues. On 23 November, police arrested 23 members of Hyundai Motor India Employees Union (HMIEU), including HMIEU General Secretary, Sridharan when they attempted to stage a hunger strike at Irrungattukottai, Tamil Nadu. They were released the same day.

Workers Score Victories:

Bonded labourers rescued: On 26 May, authorities rescued 13 bonded labourers, including five children, from a rice mill in Ponneri, Tamil Nadu. The labourers had worked at the mill for as long as six years. On 17 July, authorities rescued eight bonded labourers and their families from a rice mill in Ponneri. The labourers had been at the mill for seven years. On 28 November, Indian officials in Bokaro District, Karnataka, rescued 18 workers who had been held captive in a cement factory for the past five months. The workers said they were physically abused and forced to work 16 hours a day.

Air India: In early February, the Delhi High Court invalidated Air India's (AI's) 26 May 2010 withdrawal of recognition of the Air Corporation Employees Union (ACEU) because the union went on strike. The court ruled that the withdrawal was procedurally flawed. On 5 July, the Madras High Court high court ordered Air India to reinstate S. Surendranath, the Chief Aircraft Engineer and Chennai Regional Secretary of the All India Aircraft Engineers Association (AIAEA) with back pay and benefits. Surendranath was terminated on 26 May after AIAEA members struck over the safety violation. The court ruled that the termination notice did not contain any reason why the petitioner was dismissed.

Norwera Nuddy Tea Estate: On 18 May, a settlement was reached in the long-running dispute between workers and Amalgamated Plantations Private Ltd (APPL) at the company's Nowera Nuddy tea garden in northern West Bengal, India. APPL is majority-owned by Tata Global Beverages, part of India's Tata Group. The dispute began in August 2009 when workers spontaneously protested the abusive treatment of a pregnant tea worker, Ms Arti Oraon, by the garden hospital doctor. In response, management imposed two lockouts, the second of which lasted 3 months. Under the terms of the settlement: 1) workers and APPL withdraw all criminal cases; 2) APPL will pay workers for time they were not allowed to work under the second lockout; 3) APPL will offer the family members of two dismissed workers permanent jobs while the two dismissed workers will be given a cash settlement; 4) APPL will make a cash payment to Ms. Oraon's child as a gesture of goodwill; and 5) a joint union-management will meet to resolve grievances and to address awareness of maternity benefits. The settlement is a result of 3 sets of direct negotiations between APPL and the IUF India office.

Workers Locked Out:

On 24 June, tyre manufacturer Madras Rubber Factory (MRF) lifted a two-day lockout at its Kottayam plant in Kerala following a settlement agreement between state labour department officials, MRF management, and the Indian National Trade Union Congress (INTUC), representatives. Over 1,300 workers went on strike on 20 June to protest the suspension of a trainee accused of taking unauthorised leave. MRF officials responded by suspending three INTUC union officials for stopping production. Under the agreement, the three suspended INTUC representatives were reinstated but the status of the dismissed trainee remained unresolved.

On 26 July, work resumed at the Kolkata-based Love Tea Company – owned Kalaincherra Tea Estate (KTE) in Assam's Cachar district after KTE imposed a nine day lockout on its 800 workers represented by the Barak Valley Cha Shramik Union, the Indian National Trade Union Congress (INTUC). The lockout was the result of a disagreement between two female workers and their supervisor on 15 July over workload issues. The disagreement escalated when KTE workers surrounded the Garden Managers house the following day.

Volvo dismisses striking for union leaders: More than 600 workers of Volvo Buses India Pvt Ltd represented by the Volvo Bus Workers' Union (VBWU), CITU, at the Hoskote plant near Bangalore, Karnataka, went on strike 1 August in support of their demands for the conversion of temporary workers to permanent status, a wage increase, and the reinstatement of the four dismissed workers, including two union officials. An agreement to end the strike was reached on 15 August. Under the terms of the settlement, the company agreed to a wage increase retroactive to 1 April 2010. However, the company did not agree to reinstate the four dismissed workers. The VBWU agreed to return to work pending an investigation into the allegations against the four dismissed workers. Volvo Buses, in which the Swedish parent holds 70% stake, is a joint venture with Bangalore-based bus body builder Azad Group.

Anti-Union Dismissals:

On 10-11 August, IL-JIN Electronics (I) Pvt. Ltd (IJE) in, Noida, Uttar Pradesh, dismissed 22 workers, including all HMS union officials, and stopped bus services after HMS began discussion with IJE on converting contract for workers to regular status. IJE is a subsidiary of LG and Samsung, Korean Companies manufacturing circuit boards, air conditioners Accessories, washing machines, refrigerators and microwave ovens.

On 11 November, management officials at the Western India Shipyard, Ltd (WIS) dismissed one worker and suspended 14 others following a heated discussion between WIS management officials and workers on the amount of Diwali bonus. WIS workers are represented by the Union of Western India Shipyard (UWIS). On 12 November, 200 UWIS members went on strike to protest the dismissal and suspensions. WIS revoked all disciplinary actions and work resumed on the second shift.

On 22 March in Chandigarh, Haryana and Punjab, Tribune Trust Management (TTM) newspaper suspended 12 Tribune Employee Union (TEU) officers and members including TEU's President Balbir Singh Jandu and General Secretary. The suspension came after TEU members held a protest against over TTM's failure to investigate a sexual harassment complaint lodged by TEU member and Senior Sub-editor Chetna Keer against TTM Manager MPS Kahlon.

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