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

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Class in Industrial Disputes: Case Studies from Bangalore

The decline of the political significance of industrial conflicts is not quite a result of the structural changes in management-labour relations (as commonly thought) in these times of globalisation. It is more a consequence of the lack of an appropriate agency and politics among the working classes, despite their increasing incompatibilities with globalising capitalism. A set of case studies of manufacturing industries in Bangalore illustrates this point.

The Growth Miracle, Institutional Reforms and Employment in China

China's economy has recorded extraordinarily rapid growth for more than two decades. What have been the employment effects of this growth? And to what extent have these effects been conditioned by the institutional reforms? The paper focuses on the period 1990-2005. Rapid economic growth was indeed associated with a high-speed increase in productive employment. Surplus labour declined substantially; many workers moved from lower-productivity to higher-productivity jobs and labour-incomes increased in all types of employment. However, there have been some negative developments too. In particular, given that the formal sector had inherited substantial stocks of surplus labour from the past, economic restructuring and labour market reforms resulted in declining formal employment and growing urban unemployment for a period.

Labour Regulation and Employment Protection in Europe: Some Reflections for Developing Countries

A review of evidence on employment and wages from selected European Union countries leads one to surmise that in the context of developing countries, we tend to judge the performance of labour regulatory regimes more in terms of their impact on employment creation. Inadvertently though, we seem to foist a false idiom, since a job-creating function is beyond the terms of reference of any protectionist labour regulation. What is important in developing countries is to facilitate a rapid, but endogenous evolution of labour institutions that can protect workers' rights and remain friendly to job-creation. This requires a fresh look at some national level policies and programmes, which are not necessarily in the domain of labour relations.

Labour, Class and Economy: Rethinking Trade Union Struggle

The fundamental challenge before the trade union movement is to find a new discursive space which will allow it to accommodate the reality of diverse labour practices and relate these practices to their created, appropriated and distributed wealth. For this to happen, the authors' provide a theory of labour that incorporates the varied labour practices and the manner in which wealth from these practices are appropriated, distributed and received, thereby widening the imagination of what is possible in trade union practice.

Optional or Imposed?

This paper attempts an ex post evaluation of the voluntary retirement scheme in Bharat Aluminium from a worker-oriented perspective. Apart from enquiring as to how the VRS optees assess the context in which they had to leave, the article also addresses various related aspects such as reskilling and rehabilitation measures, utilisation pattern of the VRS amount and post-VRS support. It is evident from the field study that many of the voluntarily retired workers were subject to several direct and indirect pressures, prior to their agreement to the voluntary separation scheme. The data also suggests that the support provided by the management during the pre- and post-VRS periods was grossly inadequate.

Accounting for 'Us' and 'Them'

What are the implications of globalisation on constructions of identity. This paper is based on an in-depth case study of a financial services company operating in the United Kingdom and Mumbai. It explores how ideas about British and Indian employees were constructed in our data, and how respondents accounted for the ways in which relationships between Indian and UK employees were enacted in this organisational context.

Labour and Closure of a Mill

In Kanpur, JK Cotton Spinning and Weaving Mills Company, the flagship of the erstwhile undivided JK Group, has been closed since 1989. The mill was closed while it was undergoing an ambitious modernisation programme with financial aid from several national financial institutions of India. The case has been under the purview of the Board of Industrial and Financial Reconstruction since 1991. The workers of JK Cotton have neither got any remuneration nor any compensation since 1989. This study is an attempt to understand the effect of the closure on the workers of the mill and the changes in their lives in the years since the mill was closed.

Disinterring the Report of National Commission on Labour

This paper disinters the report of the National Commission on Labour to reveal the ideological basis of the changes sought in the labour laws. Changes suggested in the labour laws flow from an understanding of labour that is derived from the perspective of capital. The policy goal of the NCL recommendations is to position labour in a manner that will ensure the expansion of competitive capitalism in India. The article deploys the class-focused Marxist approach to reveal how the NCL attempted to change the meanings of labour, the working day, work culture and indeed that of the labour rights as a whole.

Economic Liberalisation, Work and Democracy

Economic liberalisation has brought about significant changes in the experience and meanings of work, as well as in the social consciousness and political subjectivity of workers. This paper explores the transformation of ideas about the state, democracy and rights, and the impact on political action. A case study of declining jute industrial areas of Kolkata shows that the labouring poor interpret their experience of unemployment and "casualisation" not primarily as an economic phenomenon, but as a political crisis involving the betrayal of the working classes. This perception has led the poor to abandon political activism, to condemn democratic politics as unrepresentative, and to confine their engagement with institutional politics merely to extracting patronage benefits. Working class youth seek to exercise their agency within the urban locality in diverse ways, ranging from extortion and coercion to local community-oriented social work. Politics among this section of the poor is undergoing intense localisation, shunning the wider arena of democratic politics, thus spelling a crisis of political representation and participation.

Informality, Gender and Poverty

This paper seeks to focus attention on the challenge of decent work for the working poor in the informal economy. The findings presented here are based on recent analyses of national data in a cross-section of developing countries. The data illustrate the multi-segmented structure of the labour force - both formal and informal - and the average earnings and poverty risk associated with working in the different segments. Special attention is paid to the differential location of the working poor, both women and men, in multi-segmented labour markets. The paper argues that there is a need to reorient economic policies to promote more and better employment in order to reduce poverty; improve national employment statistics to capture all forms of informal employment; rethink economic models of labour markets to incorporate self-employment and all forms of waged labour; and increase the representative voice of workers - especially informal workers, both women and men - in the processes and institutions that determine economic policies and formulate the "rules of the (economic) game".

Street Hawkers and Public Space in Mumbai

Street hawking is generally considered as a "menace" or an "eyesore" that prevents the development of Mumbai as a world-class city. But this article explores the essential presence of hawkers in a city, which requires a critical understanding of the functioning of public space. The experiences of hawkers in Mumbai, as elsewhere in India, have taught them not to fear a regulatory state, but a predatory one, a state that constantly demands bribes and threatens demolition, against which a licence provides security.

Flexibility, Employment and Labour Market Reforms in India

There is intense debate on labour market reforms in India today. It is argued that but for restrictive labour laws that create inflexibility in the labour market, the Indian economy would have experienced a higher growth of employment. On the other hand, this view is vehemently contested by trade unions and many other economists. This paper shows that the Indian labour market is quite flexible despite so-called restrictive labour laws. However, at the same time, Indian labour laws are so numerous, complex and even ambiguous that they promote litigation rather than the resolution of problems related to industrial relations. A comprehensive view on labour market reforms is required, one that addresses the needs of both employers and workers. The author recommends simplifying and rationalising the complex and ambiguous extant pieces of labour legislation into a simple code that allows for labour adjustment with adequate social and income security for the workers.


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