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Indian road transport workers strike against new anti-worker legislation


The International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) stands in solidarity with Indian road transport workers striking today (February 16) as they demand Modi’s Government reverse legislation that seeks to criminalise drivers.

ITF has written to the Indian Government expressing concern at the new ‘Bharatiya Nyay Sanhita’ (BNS) law that places criminal liability on the driver for road traffic accidents. ITF-affiliated road transport unions in India will strike today as part of wider national protests called by the Central Trade Unions (CTU) against a series of anti-worker, anti-farmer and anti-people measures enacted by India’s Central Government.

Road transport workers will join workers from agriculture and other sectors to demand dialogue and to repeal various pieces of new legislation that infringe their rights. ITF affiliated railway and dockers unions have pledged their support.

The law, introduced without consultation with unions, fails to acknowledge road accidents caused by unsafe working conditions on road transport workers when pressured to meet unsafe deadlines.

ITF General Secretary Stephen Cotton said that the way this law was enacted, coupled with the treatment of trade unions that have voiced opposition to the legislation, raises concerns about potential violations of international labour standards.

ITF’s Secretary of Inland Transport, Noel Coard, said the ITF stands with Indian road transport workers in their fight for justice. “The issues in India are the same we see globally within the road transport sector, and the solutions must be proactive not punitive and anti-worker,” said Coard.

“No driver sets out to have an accident on the road. At the scene of an accident crowds have been known to violently attack drivers, who must flee for their safety. The law blindly calls this ‘hit and run’ and seeks to imprison any driver who leaves the scene with up to ten years imprisonment. This falls far short of addressing any of the underlying systemic issues that cause driving accidents on Indian roads.”

“We have just seen world-leading legislation passed in Australia that enforces minimum standards for road transport workers which the Indian Government can use as an example of how to make roads safer and the road transport industry more viable.”

Coard said that the ITF stand ready to engage with the Indian Transport Minister and our affiliated unions in genuine dialogue to improve working conditions and road safety for all.

In September 2023, the ITF launched a global ‘Safe Rates’ campaign, which calls on governments and industry stake holders to implement legal reforms like those in Australia that create safe, fair and decent standards for workers which dramatically reduce road traffic accidents.