Sounding the poll bugle, ten central trade unions congregated on March 5 for a National workers’ Convention in Delhi to pass a demand charter with 15 core demands ahead of the crucial Lok Sabha Elections 2019. “Our convention comes at a key time. We have to take these demands to the common people of the country who have suffered the most at the hands of the BJP government,” said Tapan Sen, General Secretary of the Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU).
The trade unions have jointly conducted 18 country wide general strikes during this period in addition to scores of sectoral strikes. The participation of workers in these strikes has been continuously increasing. Addressing the workers, who had travelled from across the country to attend the convention, Amarjeet Kaur of the All India Trade Union Congress (AITUC) said, “The draft that we have released today is guiding our campaign. The BJP has been the most blatant in its attack on the workers. Even though the Parliament is no longer in session, it is still using backdoor methods to continue with the policy of privatisation. For example, the privatisation of oil companies, airport bids and the privatisation of steel companies has been done by the government, without being in session.”
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Referring to the massive strikes of workers in November 2018, on January 8-9, 2019, and more recently, the strikes of transport workers and the strikes in the defence sector, she added, “The workers have continuously answered back to the government showing them the strength in resistance.”
The leaders asserted that every sector of the working class has suffered enormously under the Modi government with the workers now struggling for their identity and livelihood, prices of all essential commodities, housing, transport, electricity, education and health etc. are increasing. While the wages of workers have been stagnant in many sectors, for most of the contract, casual and daily wage workers and workers in the unorganised sector, the government is stubbornly refusing to implement the consensus recommendation of the Indian Labour Conference to notify minimum wages as per the 15th ILC formula along with the Supreme Court judgment in the Raptakos & Brett case. The issues of failed promises of the Modi government over creation of employment, the lack of commitment of the government to health services and its apathy and support to the brazen corporate loot were also extensively discussed.
The draft called for a comprehensive legislation covering social security and working conditions for all workers, including agricultural workers. They have also demanded the government to check unemployment on war footing and assure minimum pension of Rs 6,000 per month as well as indexed pension to all. They also demanded recognition of workers employed in different government schemes and immediate revocation of 'fixed term employment'.
The unions asked for a crackdown on the disinvestment/ strategic sale of public sector undertakings and give revival package to the important PSUs in public interest. Their 15-point charter expects the government to scrap NPS (national pension scheme) and restore the old pension scheme (which was dearness relief linked for government employees). It also demands to stop anti-worker and pro-employer amendments to the labour laws and codifications, and ensure strict implementation of the existing labour laws.
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The ten central trade unions- Indian National Trade Union Congress (INTUC), All India Trade Union Congress (AITUC), Hind Mazdoor Sabha (HMS), Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU), All India United Trade Union Centre (AIUTUC), Trade Union Coordination Centre (TUCC), Self Employed Women's Association (SEWA), All India Central Council of Trade Unions (AICCTU), Labour Progressive Federation (LPF), United Trade Union Congress (UTUC) released an extended charter of demands which include-
- Fix national minimum wage as per the recommendations of 15th Indian Labour Conference and Supreme Court judgement in the Raptakos & Brett case, which has been reiterated unanimously by later Indian Labour Conference.
- Abolish Contract Labour system in perennial nature of job pending which strictly implement equal wage and benefits to contract workers doing the same job as permanent workers, as per Supreme Court judgment.
- Stop outsourcing and contractorisation of jobs of permanent and perennial nature.
- Strict implementation of equal pay for equal work for men and women as per Indian Constitution and equal remuneration act and also reiterated by Supreme Court.
- Minimum Support Price for the produce of the farmers as per the recommendations of Swaminathan Commission, strengthen public procurement system.
- Loan waiver to farmers and Institutional credit for the small and marginal farmers.
- Comprehensive legislation covering social security and working conditions for all workers including agricultural workers.
- Take immediate concrete measures to control sky rocketing prices of essential commodities; ban speculative trading in essential commodities. Expand and strengthen public distribution system; no compulsory linkage of Aadhar to avail services of PDS.
- Check unemployment through policies encouraging labour intensive establishments; link financial assistance/incentives/concessions to employers with employment generation in the concerned establishments; fill up all vacant posts in government departments; lift the ban on recruitment and 3% annual surrender of government posts.
- Assure minimum pension of Rs 6000 per month and indexed pension to all.
- Recognise workers employed in different government schemes, including anganwadi workers and helpers, ASHAs and others employed in the National Health Mission, Mid day Meal workers, Para teachers, teaching and non teaching staff of National Child Labour Projects, Gramin chowkidars etc as workers and pay minimum wages, social security benefits including pension etc to all of them.
- Immediately revoke ‘Fixed Term Employment’ which is in violation of the spirit of ILO Recommendation 204 which India has ratified.
- Stop disinvestment/strategic sale of public sector undertakings. Give revival package to the important PSUs in the public interest.
- Revival and opening of jute industries and tea plantations, as thousands of workers in these industries are facing distress, malnutrition and deaths due to closure.
- Revoke the decision to privatise Railways, Defence, Port and Dock, Banks, Insurance, Coal etc. Immediately revoke decision allowing commercial mining of coal mines.
- Withdraw the Motor Vehicle Act (Amendment) Bill 2017 and Electricity (Amendment) Bill 2018.
- Immediately resolve the issues of the central government employees related to the recommendations of the 7th Pay Commission.
- Scrap NPS and restore the Old Pension Scheme.
- Stop anti worker and pro employer amendments to the labour laws and codifications. Ensure strict implementation of the existing labour laws.
- Implement paid maternity leave of 26 weeks, maternity benefit and crèche facilities for women workers no incentive be given to employers who are following amended provision of Maternity Benefit Act as proposed by the Government.
- Strict implementation of the Prevention of Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace Act.
- Ratify ILO Conventions 87 and 98 on Freedom of Association and Right to Collective Bargaining along with the ILO Convention 189 on Domestic Workers.
- Stop dilution of OSH & Welfare provisions through merger of 13 Acts in one Code. Ensure implementation of existing Acts and rules. Vacant posts of factory inspectors, Mines inspectors etc and lift ban on inspections. Ratify ILO C-155 and recommendation 164 related to OSH & Environment. Tripartite audit of human and financial loss due to accident should be mandatory.
- Strengthen Bipartism and Tripartism; make recognition of trade union by the employers mandatory in every establishment; no decision should be taken on any issue related to labour without consensus through discussion with trade unions, ensure regular, meaningful social dialogue with workers representatives.
- Cut the subsidies given to the corporates.
- Right to work as fundamental right by amending the Constitution.
- 300 days of work under MGNREGA. Enact similar legislation to cover urban areas. Fix minimum wages not less than minimum wages of the state.
- Strict measures to stop the inhuman practice of manual scavenging. Compensation, as per Supreme Court judgment, to the families who die while cleaning sewers.
- Strict implementation of the SC/ST Prevention of Atrocities Act
- Immediately fill up all backlogs in the posts reserved for SC/ST; reservation of jobs for SC/ST in private sector employment also.
- Protect couples opting for inter-caste and inter-religious marriages. Ensure strict actions against those encouraging/ resorting to so called ‘honour killings’.
- Ensure strict punishment according to law for all guilty of rape and other cases of violence against women in letter and spirit.
- Ensure effective implementation of Article 51 A of the Constitution that calls upon all citizens to promote harmony, spirit of common brotherhood, diversities and to transcend religious, linguistic, regional and sectional culture and to denounce policies derogatory to the dignity of women.
- Free and compulsory education to all children up to Class XII along with technical education. The budget allocation for education should be 10% of the GDP.
- Free health care for all. Strengthen health infrastructure, particularly in the rural and tribal areas. Increase government expenditure on health to 5% of GDP.
- Workers should have active and effective participation in all Welfare Boards constituted for their welfare.
- Potable drinking water be provided to whole populace.
- Fill up all already sanctioned vacant posts.
- Lift Ban on recruitment in all Government and Public sector undertakings and also 3% compulsory annual surrender of post.
- Lifting ban on new creation of posts on introduction of new work.
- Protection of street vendors should be ensured. States should frame rules accordingly.
- In order to protect the interests of Home Based Workers which is women dominated sector ILO Convention 177 for Home Work be ratified alongwith an Act for Home Based Workers.
- The unspent amount of cess collected under Building and Other Construction Workers Welfare Board be spent only on welfare of workers. Welfare Boards should have adequate workers representation. The functioning of the boards should be strengthened so that the workers can get registered with the board and have easy access to welfare benefits.
- The Government should direct the States to frame the rules for inclusion of waste recyclers of the solid waste management in the cities at all levels.