As 10 central trade unions prepare for a nationwide strike on January 8, the proposed Industrial Relations Code is in their line of fire.

While the government says the code will simplify old and complex labour regulations, improve the business environment and spur employment, unions call the related bill “anti-worker” for allowing employers to hire and fire workers more easily, arguing that it has no safeguards for workers, makes it harder for workers to negotiate better terms and wages with employers, and makes strike actions more difficult.

The Industrial Relations Code Bill is part of wider government efforts to streamline and simplify the plethora of existing and overlapping labour laws by creating four labour codes–each on wages, industrial relations, social security and occupational safety, health and working conditions.

“These codes, including the Industrial Relations code, is pushing us back to the British era,” Amarjeet Kaur, general secretary of the All India Trade Union Congress (AITUC), told IndiaSpend. “It attacks collective bargaining by making trade union leaders vulnerable to punishments and attacks existing labour legislations we have for worker protection.”