From the Viewsroom

Why workers need unions

Jinoy Jose P | Updated on April 15, 2020 Published on April 15, 2020

The Covid-19 crisis has rendered workers vulnerable. They must organise

Covid-19 and the resultant distress in the job market have once again highlighted the importance of trade unions, especially in ensuring that worker welfare becomes a key agenda of policymakers as well as companies. Inarguably, one of the biggest and most immediate casualties of the Covid-19 crisis are workers in sectors where unions are non-existent. The very absence of collective bargaining powers has exposed these workers to extreme uncertainty, and they fall prey to the draconian measures taken by their companies. The gig economy is a worthy example. In this sector, three crucial factors have wreaked havoc on the hapless workers.

One, obviously, is the total absence of workers’ unions which makes them silent spectators to preemptive measures (read pink slips) so much so that most of the sacked are asked to stop working immediately and leave without any monetary compensation. Second, the remaining employees work under extremely stressful conditions without adequate safety measures. Next, and the most important aspect of it all, is the ironical way in which these workers are defined by the companies — a stark reflection of the fact that unions or any other forms of workers collectives do not play any role in the way they are classified, both in India and advanced markets. Those who are familiar with the gig economy nomenclature know this. For instance, food delivery apps and rider services term their employees ‘driver-partners’, even though they enjoy none of the benefits attributed to partners.

At the same time, in countries and sectors where unions are strong, workers enjoy better wages, benefits and other protective measures. A great example is contrast between the status of nurses in India and, say, Australia. While the former earn a pittance for such crucial services, their counterparts in unionised Australia earn at par with doctors.

Workers in non-unionised sectors are going to pay dearly in the future. Given the sheer disregard with which labour policies are framed in countries such as India and the US,— two large economies where the business sector is infested with anti-union practices — the economic crisis triggered by Covid will become even more telling. Hence, this calamity must come as a wake-up for workers usually reluctant to join or form unions, especially belonging to the Left parties, which seem to have given up on their aggressive enthusiasm in furthering working class goalsand have compromised along the way.

The writer is Deputy Editor with BusinessLine

Published on April 15, 2020

A letter from the Editor

Dear Readers,

The coronavirus crisis has changed the world completely in the last few months. All of us have been locked into our homes, economic activity has come to a near standstill. Everyone has been impacted.

Including your favourite business and financial newspaper. Our printing and distribution chains have been severely disrupted across the country, leaving readers without access to newspapers. Newspaper delivery agents have also been unable to service their customers because of multiple restrictions.

In these difficult times, we, at BusinessLine have been working continuously every day so that you are informed about all the developments – whether on the pandemic, on policy responses, or the impact on the world of business and finance. Our team has been working round the clock to keep track of developments so that you – the reader – gets accurate information and actionable insights so that you can protect your jobs, businesses, finances and investments.

We are trying our best to ensure the newspaper reaches your hands every day. We have also ensured that even if your paper is not delivered, you can access BusinessLine in the e-paper format – just as it appears in print. Our website and apps too, are updated every minute, so that you can access the information you want anywhere, anytime.

But all this comes at a heavy cost. As you are aware, the lockdowns have wiped out almost all our entire revenue stream. Sustaining our quality journalism has become extremely challenging. That we have managed so far is thanks to your support. I thank all our subscribers – print and digital – for your support.

I appeal to all or readers to help us navigate these challenging times and help sustain one of the truly independent and credible voices in the world of Indian journalism. Doing so is easy. You can help us enormously simply by subscribing to our digital or e-paper editions. We offer several affordable subscription plans for our website, which includes Portfolio, our investment advisory section that offers rich investment advice from our highly qualified, in-house Research Bureau, the only such team in the Indian newspaper industry.

A little help from you can make a huge difference to the cause of quality journalism!

Support Quality Journalism
This article is closed for comments.
Please Email the Editor
You have read 1 out of 3 free articles for this week. For full access, please subscribe and get unlimited access to all sections.