The International Handbook of Labour Unions
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The International Handbook of Labour Unions

Responses to Neo-Liberalism

Edited by Gregor Gall, Adrian Wilkinson and Richard Hurd

Since the 1970s, the spread of neo-liberalism across the world has radically reconfigured the relationship between unions, employers and the state. The contributors highlight that this is the major cause and effect of union decline and if there is to be any union revitalisation and return to former levels of influence, then unions need to respond in appropriate political and practical ways. Written in a clear and accessible style, the Handbook examines unions’ efforts to date in many of the major economies of the world, providing foundations for understanding each country.
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Chapter 10: India, Neo-liberalism and Union Responses – Unfinished Business and Protracted Struggles

Ernesto Noronha and David Beale


Ernesto Noronha and David Beale INTRODUCTION India is a very large, expanding economy with a population of over 1000 million, a labour force of approximately 43 per cent and with 30 per cent living in urban locations (Labour File 2008; National Sample Survey 2007; World Bank 2010a). India covers an area roughly similar to the size of Europe, with 28 states and seven union territories, and it is a very diverse country economically, politically and culturally, alongside extremes of poverty and wealth. Government is based on parliamentary democracy, though experiences considerable regional tensions and conflicts between its state-level governments and central government (Sinha 2005). Information technology, telecommunications and business process outsourcing are rapidly growing employment sectors and of increasing significance globally (World Bank 2010a). While the impact on India of neo-liberalism gathered pace in the 1990s, the country’s industrial relations trajectory has been influenced considerably by British colonialism, the independence struggle and the country’s postindependence political economy (Bhattacherjee and Ackers 2010: 107–112). Prior to 1947, the independence movement was dominated politically by the Indian National Congress (commonly referred to simply as Congress), while unions organised to fight for independence and workers’ rights primarily through the communist-led All India Trade Union Congress (AITUC) (Candland 2007: 22–23). Following independence, Congress quickly set up its own national union federation – the Indian National Trade Union Congress (INTUC) – as a labour adjunct of the party (Bhattacherjee and Ackers 2010: 107). In the following years, a proliferation of opposition parties gradually emerged of the...

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