PREPARATIONS START FOR LONG STRUGGLES TO PROTECT LABOUR RIGHTS
The central trade unions of the country in a joint statement has asked all its members as also the workers of all industries, to observe protest day on July 3 to focus on the anti-labour moves initiated by the Narendra Modi Government taking advantage of the prevailing threat of pandemic. The CTUs has said that the central policies are being tuned solely against the interests of the working class and all preparations will have to be taken to protect the job security of the millions of labourers which are at stake.
The Central Trade Unions (CTUs) in their meeting on 3rd June 2020 congratulated the workers for responding enthusiastically to the nation-wide protest call demanding immediate halt to changes in labour laws, abrogating the rights won over after a struggle of 150 years among other demands. The meeting took serious note of the continuous aggressive attack on the workers’ rights ignoring all the joint representations to the Government on the matter including the nationwide protest on 22nd May 2020.
According to the CTUs, the Government not only failed in getting its own orders and advisories implemented in regard to payment of wages to workers, no retrenchments to be carried during lockdown period. Instead, it withdrew its own decision in the face of the case in Supreme Court by the employers of some companies. The Government did not heed to the demand of cash transfer of Rs. 7500/- to all non income tax paying households including unorganised labour (registered or unregistered) for the months of April, May, June, neither the demand for Government support to pay the wages of workers of MSMEs for these three months. The ration to all working people for at least six months to be made available universally also did not find favour with the Government. Neither our demand for workers safe journey home paid attention to.
The Supreme Court had to take cognizance finally asking the Governments of Centre and States not to demand passenger fares from workers, give them proper shelter and food till they are transported to their homes. Nineteen High Courts had taken cognizance of workers, frontline fighters and hospital services etc during this period.
The trade unions reiterated that the Central Government chose the cover of COVID-19 lockdown to push through its agenda of disinvestment and wholesale privatisation of Public Sector Enterprises, 100 percent FDI in core sectors – Indian railways, Defence, Port and Dock, Coal, Air India, Banks, Insurance etc., steps in favour Corporates of Indian & Foreign brands to usurp natural resources and business of the country while mouthing behind the slogan of Atma-Nirbhar Bharat. The earlier decisions and those taken during COVID-19 lockdown on privatization/corporatization/commercialization in Defense, Coal, Space science, Atomic energy, Insurance, Banks and most of the PSUs are being pursued with vigour and arrogance. The decision of DA freeze of 48 lakh Central Government Employees and DR freeze of 68 lakh pensioners, which is also having impact on the state government employees, is not withdrawn despite vehement opposition from Government employees and CTUs.
In this back ground various sections are now in agitation mode. The electricity workers and engineers have jointly observed countrywide protest against Electricity Amendment Bill 2020 on 1st June 2020. While welcoming the sectoral struggles which are developing in various sectors, CTUs support the protest programmes taken up by Defence federations including “strike ballots” and those in the coal mine sector on 10-11 June 2020.
The scheme workers, ASHA, Anganwadi, MDM, 108 ambulance employees, etc and the nurses and doctors who are in the front ranks among the front line warriors working at the community level for combating Covid 19 Pandemic are agitated for their demands for safety measures not being addressed appropriately and neither they are provided proper health care on falling sick from COVID-19 infection, nor the social security and insurance coverage being extended to the families who are succumbing to the disease. The scheme workers are also being denied payment of honorarium for lockdown period.
ASHAs, anganwadi employees, Doctors, Nurses, Safai Karamcharis, have been in the protests now and then in various parts of the country on similar demands. The CTUs support all these agitations on their just demands.
The statement said that the so-called Rs. 20 lakh crore package of the Government is nothing but a hoax and cruel joke on the suffering people; this mainly comprises of loan guarantee to various sectors and the actual relief package reaching people is not even 1 percent of GDP. Even, previously announced budgetary allocations and welfare schemes such as PM Kisan Samman Nidhi, Construction Workers Welfare Board and District Mineral Funds etc have been unscrupulously repackaged to befool the people.
The workers who have reached back to their villages would need work, so there is dire need of additional amount to cover these workers also along with the existing needs of rural labours. But the sum announced was paltry in face of demand at the ground level. We demand that the coverage of MNREGA must be enhanced sufficiently to meet the demand for livelihood and work for all including the returned migrant workers; similar employment guarantee should also be extended for the urban areas to meet the demand for work and livelihood for all including the most suffering unorganized sector workers; they should also be provided universal social security including health care and food support.
Now with the opening up of some industrial units the complaints are that all workers are not being taken back, only a small percentage is finding their place back in jobs and that also on reduced wages and refusal to pay lockdown period salary. Such denial of employment and pressure for wage-reduction have to be unitedly combated and we also demand upon the governments for immediate corrective interventions in that direction.
The jobless are more than 14 crore and if we add the daily wagers/contract/casual, it is more than 24 crores who are out of livelihood at present. The MSMEs themselves are reporting that 30% to 35% units may not be in position to start their activities. The unemployment rate is already reached 27%. ILO has said in its report that more than 40 crore people would be pushed into deeper poverty. According to eminent scientists & medical experts, India is faced with stark reality, that malnutrition would increase, hunger deaths would become a daily reality, and there is real threat of depression resulting in suicides amongst workers.
Modi Government has most insensitively dealt with the problem of COVID 19 as law & order issue instead of treating it as medical emergency for the human being and society. It has caused immense miseries to millions of workers, farmers and other vulnerable sections of the society. Whereas, Government stood only by Corporates & big businesses.
A Government which has no respect and concern, towards the rights and basic survival-entitlements of workers and the people does not deserve any co-operation. We the workers/employees and trade unions need to do everything possible to be in solidarity with each other, unitedly face the disease taking all precautions necessary, stand with each other to defend our rights of unionization, collective bargaining, decent working condition, wages & future securities etc. This Govt has demonstrated cruel insensitivity of the basic human needs of the workers and people. This cannot be endorsed and cooperated with.
The CTUs demanded upon the Government to immediately hold the long overdue Indian Labour Conference to dwell upon the 12 point Charter of Demands, the labour and trade union rights, issues of job losses, wages, job security, the migrant workers’ issues including their journey to home and return journey to those who desire to join back their work, instead of frequently meeting only the employers and corporates organisations.
The central trade unions have resolved to unite all sections of the workers to organise the protests and the necessary actions since the Government is totally unconcerned at the interests of the workers including the migrant labour. Only a united fight can defeat the present government in carrying out its anti-labour programmes.