In a great victory to the workers of M/s ITI Ltd. and to their sustained struggle from 1st December, 2021 onwards (over 1 year and 5 months), the Karnataka High Court has passed an order dated 18.04.2023 in W.P. No. 9465/2020 holding as binding on the ITI management  the settlement arrived at between the Union and the Management, as per which 35 workers would be immediately taken back to work, and the remaining 45 workers would be taken thereafter. 


On 01.12.2021, the Management of ITI Ltd. had illegally refused employment to 80 workers for the sole reason that they had unionized and sought for their legitimate rights. The workers who were thrown out have been on a day and night protest outside the ITI gate from thereon, and the protest which continues even today, is perhaps one of the longest working class struggles to have taken place in Karnataka, going up to 1 year and 5 months (540 days). The struggle saw support from across sectors with other trade unions, Dalit organizations, farmer organizations, womens’ organizations coming together to stand with the workers. 


The management and the union entered into a settlement on 17.03.2022 as per which the management agreed that 35 workers would be immediately taken back to work, and the remaining 45 workers would be taken thereafter. However, the Management of ITI Ltd. refused to implement the settlement. The Union had approached the Karnataka High Court in this regard and the Court has passed its order on 18.04.2023 directing that the settlement was binding on the management and has required the Conciliation Officer to try and conciliate the difference between the Union and the Management. 


The actions of the management also amount to an unfair labour practice prohibited under the Industrial Disputes Act, in regard to which a complaint was filed before the Central Labour Commissioner. The Court has directed the Commissioner to pass necessary orders on the complaint within a period of 8 weeks of the receipt of the order. 


The struggle of the ITI workers brought to the forefront the highly exploitative nature of the contract labour system, where workers are termed contract workers, despite working for decades and denied their rights. The victory of the workers of ITI is a victory of the working class against the contract labour system. It is the need of the hour to fight against this new form of bonded labour and ensure secure working conditions for all workers.