Evolution of Labour Law

The history of labour laws in India is interwoven with the history of British colonialism. The industrial/labour legislations enacted by the British were primarily intended to protect the interests of the British employers. Considerations of the British political economy were naturally paramount m shaping some of these early laws.

Thus, the Factories Act came into existence. It is well-known that Indian textile goods offered stiff competition to British textiles in the export market and hence in order to make India’s labour costlier, the Factories Act was first introduced in 1883 because of the pressure brought on the British parliament by the textile magnates of Manchester and Lancashire.

Thus, India received the first stipulation of eight hours of work, the abolition of child labour, the restriction of women in night employment, and the introduction of overtime wages for work beyond eight hours. While the impact of this measure was clearly welfarist, the real motivation was undoubtedly protectionist.

Then the Trade Disputes Act of 1929 came into existence. Provisions were made in the Trade Disputes Act, 1929 for restraining the rights of strike and lock-out, but no machinery was provided to take care of disputes. The original colonial legislation underwent substantial modifications in the post-colonial era because independent India called for a clear partnership between labour and capital.

The content of this partnership was unanimously approved in a tripartite conference in December 1947 in which it was agreed that labour would be given a fair wage and fair working conditions and in return capital would receive the fullest cooperation of labour for uninterrupted production and higher productivity as part of the strategy for national economic development and that all concerned would observe a truce period of three years free from strikes and lock-outs.

Ultimately, the Industrial Disputes Act (the Act) was brought into force on 01.04.1947 repealing the Trade Disputes Act, of 1929, and has since remained in the statute book.

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