ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Labour Agency and Global Production Networks in India

Intermediaries—Old and New

Recognising an increasing interface of the domestic labour—informal as well as unorganised—with the global production networks, this article engages with two specific research concerns. One is the relevance of traditional trade unions, and the other is the role of the new, even as both labour standards and rights confront the challenges of capital-favouring new labour legislations. The systemic exclusion of the lower-tier workers, despite their globality, reinforces and justifies informality and precarity in the labour process.

This research forms a component of a larger study “Rising Powers, Labour Standards and Governance of Global Production Networks” based at the University of Manchester. Sincere thanks are due to the project colleagues and especially to Peter Knorringa for rich discussions and jointly conducting all interviews for the research. The author is grateful to all those who offered insightful comments and an anonymous referee. Support from Ellina Samantroy, Sandip Sarkar, S K Verma and Itishree Pattnaik in preparing this article is greatly appreciated by the author.

Labour, preferably pliable, could be the key resource of capital in furthering conventional manufacturing activities across local, regional or global space. Contingent upon the nature of production, as the capital ordains, two issues assume significanceone, that of labour standards and the other, that of labour rights. While the emphasis on labour standards has been a recent development, labour rights have remained a long-standing issue following the rise of industrial societies. Whether it would be in the capitals interest to propagate labour standards across space and activity depends crucially on how the local labour is organised, or, for that matter, how protective are the state legislations of the labour interests, in a given region or nation.

For the informal (and unorganised) workers, participating in the global production networks (GPNs), regulatory enclaves undermine their rights. Significant incongruity exists between private and public labour regulations: norms/benefits for regular and informal workers; private corporate auditing measures for first-tier suppliers for exports and workers in informal small enterprises also targeting the domestic market (Posthuma 2010: 72). The nature of capitalstate relationship, significantly impacts the perusal of labour standards by buyers, especially at the lower rungs of subcontracting arrangements. The question of labour rightsacross geographies and statusfor all workers involved in the production processes remain a complex one, nevertheless.

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Published On : 20th Jan, 2024

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