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Karnataka CITU State Conference: Demands to Increase Minimum Wage, End Contract Labour Reiterated

Newsclick Report |
During the conference, union leaders demanded that the GST rates be lowered in order to ease the burden on the working classes of India.

Image for representational purpose. Credit: Kerala Kaumudi

The 15th CITU State Conference held in Kundapur, Karnataka, which concluded on November 17, focused on precarity exacerbated by the pandemic and neoliberal policies of the government.

The three-day conference was attended by CITU national president, K Hemalatha, national secretary Tapan Sen and vice-president, A K Padmanabhan along with delegates from 31 districts of the state.

During the conference, union leaders demanded that the GST rates be lowered in order to ease the burden on the working classes of India. The number of workers that are earning less than the minimum wage was found to be increasing. Contractual labour has been even more commonplace, they said and concluded that since the buying power of the people has fallen, trades and businesses have been in decline. They contended that lowering of GST rates along with a hike in the minimum wage to Rs. 36,000 per month would boost incomes as well as the economy. Preparations are underway to hold protests across the country.

General secretary of the state committee, Meenakshi Sundaram, spoke to NewsClick about the low income of the workers. He said, “Cooks in the mid-day meal programme were found to be earning only Rs. 2,000-3,000 per month. Anganwadi workers in the state are earning around Rs. 12,000 per month. Similarly, Gram Panchayat workers earn Rs. 12000 per month and several of them have already complained that they haven’t been paid for six months.”

“Workers in the unorganised sector are in the most vulnerable position; yet, there are no welfare schemes for them. The abolition of the contract labour system was the key demand at the conference. We have decided to launch a big struggle in 2023, during the Budget session. These protests will be held throughout the country,” he added.

A new state committee was elected at the conference with 41 office bearers. S Varalakshmi was elected president, while Meenakshi Sundaram became the general secretary.

State president S Varalakshmi spoke to NewsClick about some of the resolutions passed. She said, “India is at 107th rank in the global hunger index. Nobody can work when they are hungry. Increasing the minimum wage can assuage some of the problems being faced by the people. The taxes on petrol and diesel are very high. A resolution was passed that social security for the unorganised sector workers must be the first priority of the government. Drivers of autos, goods vehicles, and trucks also require attention and funds must be allotted towards welfare schemes. The Supreme Court had recently said that Anganwadi workers are entitled to gratuity payments. This must be strictly implemented. Municipal workers and sanitation workers must be given permanent jobs. They cannot be indefinitely kept as contract labour. Until they are made permanent, their wages must be on par with permanent workers. There is no reason for two people who do the same job to be earning vastly different wages.”

The union members also passed a resolution at the conference against the attempts to privatise public sector utilities, including electricity generation and distribution companies. As per local news reports, CITU national president K Hemalatha told the gathering that the campaign for ration and not bhashan (speeches) resonated with the people [during the pandemic]. “However, opposition from the labouring classes must be stronger,” she said. She further contended that political parties that support the capitalist system, are using religion to divide workers’ unity.

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