Putting forth a list of 15 demands, unions and federations of scheme workers affiliated to the Central Trade Unions have called for an all-India strike on August 7 and 8 and a Satyagraha/Jail Bharo on August 9.
In a statement released on Thursday, scheme workers – Anganwadi, ASHA (Accredited Social Health Activist) , MDM (Midday Meal) , workers under National Health Mission (NHM) and Samagra Sikksha etc – have said that they will be on strike on Friday and Saturday. The workers are affiliated with the Central Trade Unions (INTUC, AITUC, HMS, CITU, AIUTUC, TUCC, SEWA, AICCTU, LPF, UTUC)
The release mentioned that the workers, many of whom are front-line workers in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, have been “forced to take this step” four months after the pandemic began since many of the “minimum requirements for them – safety, insurance and risk allowance- are provided by the government. Many of the workers have died due to COVID-19 during this period. Even their monthly wages are not paid for months together.”
There have been strikes during the pandemic, at a time when labour laws are being changed in multiple states and with job losses picking up pace. ASHA workers in Bihar are on strike today.
The release mentioned that in states where the COVID-19 situation was worrisome, “the scheme workers will work wearing black badges.” The workers will be part of the strike called for by the unions on August 9, and will keep physical distancing and other WHO norms in mind.
The following are the 15 demands put forth by the workers and unions:
1. Withdraw the proposals for privatisation of basic services including health (including hospitals), nutrition (including ICDS and MDMS) and education. Stop Privatisation of PSEs and Services.
2. Make the Centrally Sponsored Schemes like ICDS, NHM and MDMS permanent with adequate budget allocation.
3. Implement the recommendations of 45th and 46th ILC for regularization of scheme workers as workers; Pay Minimum wages (Rs 21,000 per month) and pension of Rs 10,000 per month; Provide ESI and EPF to all scheme workers
4. Enact legislation for right to universal healthcare as in case of right to food and right to education.
5. No Pro-employer change in Labour Laws in the name of codification; No increase in working hours and freezing of Labour laws in the name of COVID-19 crisis. Include scheme workers in the category of workers.
6. Free ration/food for all the needy and Rs 7,500 per month for all non taxpaying families for six months; Ensure jobs and income for all.
7. Safety gear for all front-line workers, especially the ASHA workers, anganwadi workers and those in the health sector; PPEs for those who are engaged in containment areas and red zones; Frequent, random and free COVID-19 tests of all front-line workers; Do not engage those who are above 60 years old and those with health problems in COVID-19 duty.
8. Rs 50 lakhs insurance cover to all front-line workers covering all deaths on duty and pension/jobs for the dependents of the workers; also coverage of treatment for COVID-19 for the entire family.
9. Additional Covid Risk Allowance of Rs.10,000 per month for all the contract and scheme workers engaged in COVID -19 duty, especially ASHA and anganwadi workers and workers in NHM. Payment of all the pending dues of wages and allowances etc., of all the Scheme workers immediately.
10. Compensation of minimum Rupees Ten lakhs for all those who got infected while on duty.
11. The existing insurance schemes (a) Pradhan Mantri Jivan Jyoti Bima Yojana, (b) Pradhan Mantri Suraksha Bima Yojana and (c) Anganwadi Karyakarti Bima Yojana must be implemented properly with universal coverage applicable to all scheme workers.
12. Mid Day Meal Workers must be paid Rs.10,000 per month for the period when the schools are closed including the summer holidays.
13. Increase the budget allocation for CSSs. Provide adequate additional ration with good quality for all the beneficiaries of ICDS and MDMS immediately; include return migrants in these schemes.
14. Provide free and adequate COVID-19 tests and treatment to all non tax-paying people; Ensure adequate facilities in quarantine centres and hospitals. Strengthen the public health system and the health infrastructure; Allocate 6% of GDP for health sector
15. For dinance mobilisation, projects such as "Central Vista Project" be scrapped. Tax the super rich and recover the dues from willful defaulters for resources.