[dropcap]T[/dropcap]HE Delhi High Court has issued notice to the Delhi Government and the Department of Labour on a petition filed to give recognition to the Domestic Workers Union, Delhi under the Trade Union Act, 1926 (the Act).
The Delhi Domestic Workers Union (DDWU) had filed several applications for getting trade union status since 2016; all of them were rejected by the Delhi Government. The DDWU finally moved the Delhi High Court last month to claim their right to register as a trade union under the Act
Justice J R Midha, who was hearing the petition, held out a ray of hope for domestic workers by expressing support for their right to unionise and for collective bargaining. “There is need for the government to provide safeguards to workers of the unorganised sector and recognise the right of the vulnerable for organising and collective bargaining,” Justice Midha said, while issuing notice.
The DDWU in its petition filed through labour rights lawyer Sanjoy Ghose contended that, in Bangalore Water Supply & Sewage Board & others v. R Rajappa & others [1978 AIR 548], a Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court had held that the work performed by domestic workers fell squarely within the definition of industry. It used the working principle called “triple test” to define “industry”.
“Domestic workers are employed through private placement agencies on a large scale and they run their businesses by taking a proportion from the wages of the domestic workers employed by them. These private placement agencies come under the purview of the definition of industry as these agencies fulfil the triple test.
“These agencies are involved in a systematic activity of providing domestic workers, there is co-operation between private placement agencies and domestic workers, and there is delivery of services that are domestic in nature to satisfy human wants and wishes”, the DDWU said in its petition.
Referring to the International Labour Organisation’s (ILO) Convention 189, Domestic Workers Convention 2011, the DDWU claimed they had a “right to register their union in the light of India’s obligation under ILO Convention 189”, to which India is a signatory. The ILO Convention mandates decent working conditions for domestic workers and guarantees domestic workers the right of collective bargaining.
In the petition, the DDWU also referred to the policy draft issued by the Ministry of Labour and Employment on October 10, 2017 on the National Policy for Domestic Workers, which recognises domestic workers’ right to form unions and associations. “… this policy is in draft stage … (but) it shows the intention of the legislature,” the DDWU contended.
It also pointed to the domestic workers’ unions registered in Jharkhand, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Meghalaya, Orissa, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh and said that the Department of Labour, Government of Delhi had also already registered three unions of domestic workers in the north-west District.