Strikes fewer? Think again. Numbers mislead | business | Hindustan Times
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Strikes fewer? Think again. Numbers mislead

As labour unrest in Kolkata and Rajasthan hit the news on Tuesday, it raised questions on the claim made in the Economic Survey this year that strikes & lockouts (S&L) had declined since the mid-1990s.

business Updated: Sep 08, 2010 00:01 IST
Abhijit Patnaik

As labour unrest in Kolkata and Rajasthan hit the news on Tuesday, it raised questions on the claim made in the Economic Survey this year that strikes & lockouts (S&L) had declined since the mid-1990s. Growing casualisation

Some key facts lie behind official statistics.

The simple takeaway: there is poor reporting of data, difficulties in registering trade unions, restrictions on strikes and the increasing growth of informal and casual workers in hiring that conceal the big picture.

"The increased creation of casual employment is to blame," Gautam Mody, Director of the National Trade Union Initiative, told Hindustan Times. He said over the past decade jobs created mostly of "low quality, low pay and non-standard in nature to dampen unionization."

Officially, the number of lockouts from 284 in 2002-03 to 182 in 2009-10, while strikes fell from 295 to 250.

But a report by the National Commission for Enterprises in the Unorganised Sector said last year is that from 1999 to 2005, employment growth in the organised sector was mostly "informal." Given the legal difficulties involved in retrenching workers, employers use various devices including "casualising" their work-force through sub-contracting.

Casual workers don't strike – because they fear losing their jobs.

Sharit K. Bhowmik, dean of the School of Management and Labour Studies at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences, said Mumbai's picture had overturned from 65 per cent in the formal sector in 1990 to 70 per cent in the informal sector now.

Many trade unions are not registered. "Scores of applications for the registrations of unions are pending. All these lead to huge under-reporting," said Mody, adding that state governments that send in numbers are also slack, while unrest by contract workers is not captured in government labour statistics.