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By – Nishant Kumar, NMIMS

One of the questions greatly mooted in the advent of the twentieth century is whether labor rights are human rights? This question has attracted much interest in recent years among lawyers, academic scholars, trade unionists and other activists, and has given rise to heated debates. In human rights law and labor law scholarship, some endorse the character of labor rights as human rights without hesitation, while others view it with skepticism and suspicion.

Labour Rights as Human Rights

A definition of labour rights is necessary before moving on. Labour rights are entitlements that relate specifically to the role of being a worker. Some of these rights are exercised individually and others collectively. They can include a right to work in a job freely chosen, a right to fair working conditions, which may encompass issues as diverse as a just wage or protection of privacy; a right to be protected from arbitrary and unjustified dismissal; a right to belong to and be represented by a trade union; a right to strike. These rights may be based on different foundations, such as freedom, dignity or capability.

History of Labour Laws.

Labour law arose due to the demands of workers for better conditions, the right to organise, and the simultaneous demands of employers to restrict the powers of workers in many organisations and to keep labour costs low. Employers’ costs can increase due to workers organising to win higher wages, or by laws imposing costly requirements, such as health and safety or equal opportunities conditions. Workers’ organisations, such as trade unions, can also transcend purely industrial disputes, and gain political power – which some employers may oppose. The state of labour law at any one time is therefore both the product of, and a component of, struggles between different interests in society

The Positivistic Approach

Many scholars have approached this issue in different dimensions. The most straightforward answer to the question whether labour rights are human rights comes from a positivist perspective, and is often found in international law literature. A positivist lists human rights treaties protecting labour rights, or other documents explicitly recognizing labour rights as human rights as a starting point, and is satisfied that the answer is positive, if it is sufficiently supported in law.

Labour Legislation in India

Labour law also known as employment law is the body of laws, administrative rulings, and precedents which address the legal rights of, and restrictions on, working people and their organizations. As such, it mediates many aspects of the relationship between trade unions, employers and employees. In other words, Labour law defines the rights and obligations as workers, union members and employers in the workplace.

Constitutional Provisions with Regards to Labour Law.

The Constitution of India confers innumerable rights for the protection of labour. Indian constitution through various articles protects, supports, and acts as a guideline to various labour laws for their effective implementation and functioning. The relevance of the dignity of human labour and the need for protecting and safeguarding the interest of labour as human beings has been enshrined in Chapter- III (Articles 16, 19, 21, 23 & 24) and Chapter IV (Articles 39, 39-A, 41, 42, 43, 43A, 46, 47 & 54) of the Constitution of India keeping in line with Fundamental Rights and Directive Principles of State Policy which set an aim to which the activities of the state are to be guided.

Article 23 of the Constitution prohibits traffic in human being and beggar and other similar forms of forced labour. ‘Traffic in human beings’ means selling and buying men and women like goods and includes immoral traffic in women and children for immoral” or other purposes. Article 24 of the Constitution prohibits employment of children below 14 years of age in factories and hazardous employment. This provision is certainly in the interest of public health and safety of life of children. Article 39 of the Constitution imposes upon the State an obligation to ensure that the health and strength of workers, men and women, and the tender age of the children are not abused and that citizens are not forced by economic necessary to enter avocations unsuited to their age or strength. Indian Constitution protects and provides safeguards to the laborer.


  • There should be more responsible attitude on part of the management.
  • There should be adequate support from the trade unions.
  • There should be proper co-ordination of the functions of multiple tripartite institutions of the plant level.
  • Proper qualification should be described for the appointment of conciliation officer.
  • In case, if the negotiation fails, then the workers should be allowed for adjudication.
  • Steps should be taken to promote internal leadership and give more responsible role, which internal leadership should be kept outside the pale of victimization, that to hasten the process of building up internal leadership the permissible limit of outsiders in the executive of the union should be reduced.
  • Awareness of the obligation to the society and to the nation should be inculcated among the leaders, that trade unionism should be confused with total politics, and employer and employee amity and harmony is need for the hour.

These suggestions are however, made in the solemn hope that in the era of LPG where workers‟ rights are getting eroded day by day, labour rights will be adequately and effectively protected as human rights, will be eligible for public law remedy.


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