New Delhi: A congregation of over 10 central trade unions and independent federations assembled in Delhi, on the birth anniversary of Bhagat Singh, to up their ante against the BJP government’s pro-corporate and anti-worker attitude, and announced a nationwide strike on January 8-9, 2019. Addressing over 2,000 workers, Amarjeet Kaur, from the All India Trade Union Congress (AITUC) said, “There is an attempt to suppress working class and people’s voices in the name of branding them as ‘anti-nationalism’. But let it be clear that it was the working class that fought for development and betterment of this country, and not the members of RSS and BJP. We are the real patriots of this country.”
The call for the organising the congregation was given by 10 major central trade unions that included, the Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU), Indian National Trade Union Congress (INTUC), All India Trade Union Congress (AITUC), Self Employed Women’s Association (SEWA), etc.
The unions highlighted the ignorance of the government and asserted that the government is yet to ratify the ILO convention of 1989 and has systematically failed to organise the international labour conference, despite persistent efforts. Additionally, the central government has failed miserably at all fronts as far as the rights of the workers are concerned, failing to pay any attention to the 12-point charter which demands a dignified existence for the workers, including demands of regular minimum wages and universal social security at its base.
Tapan Sen, General Secretary, CITU, said, “The working class is fighting in such a situation where the national and international corporate class are hell bent to destroy our country.” He added, “We have to resist this onslaught, and remove the anti-labour and anti-people ruling class.”
The event comes at a time, when thousands of workers are fighting against attacks on the working class across the country - Tea Estate Workers’ strike, Rajasthan Transport workers, Yamaha and Royal Enfield workers’ strike in Tamil Nadu- to mention a few.
The unions also asserted that the Centre has refused to respond to the just and genuine demands. Instead it has been increasing its aggression against the rights of workers, trade unions and its very own employees, as the central government employees have been protesting to demand their legitimate salaries in accordance with the 7th Pay Commission.
Expressing concern over the deteriorating conditions of the national economy, they launched an attack on the anti-worker and pro-employer codifications of the government. The unions also critiqued the attempts made by the government to privatise strategic public sector undertakings as well as to sell the Indian Railways to private players. Railway unions including the AIRF and NFIR were also present at the venue.
Speaking with NewsClick, Shiv Gopal Mishra of the AIRF said, “It is time to create a new history. If the railway federations hadn’t put strong opposition, the government would have sold off the railways. The resistance by the railway unions has halted the attempts to push for full FDI in the railway sector. If the government continues its attempt to privatise railways, we warn that the railway federations will embark on a blockade. Railways had always been the instrument of poor people in this country and now, the government is dismantling it.”
As the government pushes its agenda of ‘ease of doing business’, the unions sounded the poll bugle by stating that the January strike is a preparation towards a massive nationwide indefinite strike. Kaur added, “The government in the Centre and the states which are engaging in anti-worker policies will be fought by strengthening the workers’ movement. We will go to every factory and street to ensure that such attacks on the working class come to an end. We have to prepare and strengthen ourselves before the January 8-9 strike.
Sonia from SEWA also said, “We need to unite and strengthen the unorganised and home based workers, and put forward a consolidated movement opposing policies that are against the working class.”
“Our slogans are clear - ‘Modi Hatao, Mazdoor bachao; Modi Hatao, Desh Bachao’ (Remove Modi, Save the Worker; Remove Modi, Save the Nation). In four years of this Modi government, we have witnessed that not only attacks on workers have increased but free speech and any kind of voices of dissent are being suppressed. This government has turned into a government of destruction- of employment, of working class, of farmers, and of democracy,” added a determined Rajiv Dhimri from AICCTU.
The 12-point charter of demands that the trade unions includes urgent measures for containing price-rise through universalisation of public distribution system and banning speculative trade in commodity market, containing unemployment through concrete measures for employment generation, strict enforcement of all basic labour laws and stringent punitive measures for violation of labour laws, universal social security cover for all workers, minimum wages of not less than Rs 18,000/- per month with provisions of indexation, stoppage of disinvestment in Central/State PSUs and strategic sale, stoppage of contractorisation in permanent perennial work and payment of same wage and benefits for contract workers as regular workers for same and similar work, among others.