On Wednesday the Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU) and Steel Workers’ Federation of India (SWFI) congratulated steel workers for a successful strike against the "arrogance" of the management and the ministry which have ignored the workers demands.
On June 29, workers of the Visakhapatnam Steel Plant staged a massive strike. Workers of the plants, mines and establishment of Steel Authority of India Ltd (SAIL) also held a strike the next day.
The workers have been demanding a wage revision for permanent and contractual workers without conditions. Over 1.5 lakh workers protested with between 70% and 95% workers on strike at various steel plants, mines and establishments.
"Owing to arrogance and brazenly anti-worker approach of the Govt. and the management, wage revision was delayed for more than four and half years," the release issued by CITU and SWFI said. It added that when bipartite talks began at the National Joint Committee for Steel (NJCS) commenced over four years later, the management proposed wage cuts instead of hikes.
"Despite that all the unions exercised tremendous patience and participated in the negotiations with the management. But owing to continuity of same negative arrogance of the management for more than six months (in various meetings of NJCS), ultimately all the unions in public sector steel industry collectively decided to go in for strike action on June 30 June (June 29 in Vizag)," it said.
The unions said that the same steel workers, both under contract and permanent ones, "have still kept the steel plants/mines running, risking their lives in the midst of pandemic/lockdown." It added that more than 600 workers and officers lost their lives to COVID-19 while at work and that the number rises to over a thousand people if their families are accounted for.
"Despite that, the management did not show the courtesy even to respond, either way, to the repeated demands of the unions for compensation and compassionate employment. Such is the arrogance of the management," it said.
"The historic and heroic strike by the steel workers, despite various provocations by the management, demonstrated that workers cannot be taken for granted. This has become a united strike action by the entire steel workers fraternity to challenge the authoritarian and unilateral stance of the management and the Govt," the unions added.
CITU further appealed to unions and workers to"strengthen this unity further to fight for a respectable wage settlement for both regular and contract workers without any negative preconditions and also against the onslaught of privatisation, RMD dismantling and attack on workers’ rights emanating from the destructive policies of (the) Govt."
Protests against the privatisation of Rashtriya Ispat Nigam Ltd. (RINL), the corporate entity of the Visakhapatnam Steel Plant, have been ongoing since February this year.