Trade unions in Delhi announced a one-day strike on November 25 on Friday to protest the “brazen neglect of workers” by the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP)–led government, the increasing contractualisation of the employment and the non-implementation of minimum wages.
The national capital in the recent past has witnessed “increasing contractualisation and fixed-term employment in jobs of perennial nature” along with “retrenchment and wage cuts in industrial establishments,” the 12 trade unions said in a statement on Friday. The situation has only worsened due to the “backbreaking” rise in prices of essential commodities, they added.
Signed by CITU, AITUC, AICCTU, HMS, INTUC, AIUTUC, TUCC, LPF, SEWA, UTUC, MEC and ICTU, the statement added that the workers in Delhi will go on strike against the “anti-worker, anti-farmer and anti-people policies of the Central and state governments”.
A joint state-level convention will be organised on September 30 marking the beginning of the strike campaign. Among the issues that will be discussed include the “deplorable” situation of migrant workers, attacks on trade union rights and the “brazen neglect of workers” by Delhi labour minister Manish Sisodia, according to the statement.
Anurag Saxena, general secretary, Centre of Indian Trade Unions, Delhi, told Newsclick that since the onset of the pandemic last year, the AAP government hasn’t convened a single meeting with the trade unions to discuss the situation of labourers in the national capital. “We wrote many letters raising our demands but the labour minister didn’t reply even once,” he said.
Asked about the current situation of workers in Delhi, Saxena said that the employers “took advantage” of the pandemic by “snatching” their jobs and reducing their wages, driving them to “starvation and death”. “Both the Central and the Delhi governments were mere spectators. Even the increase in the minimum wages announced [by the AAP government] didn’t bring any solace to the workers because it was implemented,” Saxena added.
The Delhi government had increased the dearness allowance for unskilled, semi-skilled, skilled and other workers in June, thus incrementing the overall minimum wage.
Similar concerns were raised by Lata of the Self Employed Women’s Association (SEWA), Delhi, who flayed the Delhi government for “not doing enough” for the unorganised sector of the working class in the national capital. “The cash assistance that was announced for construction workers during the lockdown was not extended to domestic workers, home-based workers or street vendors despite them bearing the brunt of the pandemic,” she said.
As the Covid-19 cases resurged and the consequent shutdown measures were imposed in Delhi this year, the AAP government announced a financial assistance of Rs 5,000 by the Delhi Building and Other Construction Workers Welfare Board for its registered construction workers in April. Similarly, around same time, cash was disbursed among drivers of paratransit vehicles like autorickshaws, taxis and e-rickshaws.
Moreover, the Delhi government also launched a scheme to provide food grains to non-ration card holders. “These initiatives were commendable but they were not enough. Having lost their source of livelihood, the unorganised workers must be immediately provided with employment with decent working conditions,” Lata added.
The trade unions had earlier urged the AAP government not to implement the labour codes. The unions will press the AAP government to accept their demands, Lata said.