[As lakhs of workers gear up for a historic All India Strike on January 8-9, called for by ten central trade unions, NewsClick brings to you glimpses of the lives of industrial workers in different parts of the country.]
As the country is all set for the workers’ general strike on January 8-9, workers’ unions in Telangana have been conducting district and mandal level conventions across the state, preparing workers for the strike against the Narendra Modi government’s anti-workers’ policies.
Trade unions in the state including Centre of Indian Trade Union (CITU), All India Trade Union Congress (AITUC), Indian National Trade Union Congress, Hind Mazdoor Sabha, All India United Trade Union Centre, International Federation of Trade Unions, Telangana Rashtra Samithi Karmika Vibhagam and Telugu Nadu Trade Union Council have been jointly organising workers for the first general strike of 2019.
The state is getting ready to witness a complete shutdown resounding with protest rallies as workers from all sectors including industrial workers, regular and contractual workers in state and central public sector units, construction workers, scheme workers, transport workers (both public and private), hamali workers and beedi workers will be joining the two-day strike.
On January 8, the unions have called for a rally followed by a public meeting near Indira Park in the state capital Hyderabad, while workers in more than 600 mandal headquarters across the state will be holding protest rallies. On the following day, unions are going to hold protests at 31 collectorates in district headquarters.
“Formalisation of contractual workers, both in private and public sectors has been a longstanding demand in the state. Of the nearly 3,000 major industries in and around Hyderabad, more than 70 per cent people (5 lakh) are contractual workers. These organised sector workers will protest near the industries and join the rally in Hyderabad,” Sai Baba, CITU Telangana General Secretary, told NewsClick. He added that the employees from BSNL, insurance and banking sector have already announced to participate in the strike.
Trade unions have been holding meetings among unorganised sector workers including beedi workers, construction workers, and hamali workers as part of their preparation for the strike. As per trade unions estimations, there are about 90 lakh people (one fourth of the state’s population) involved in unorganised sector.
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In the last four years, numerous major industries including Sirpur Paper Mill in Adilabad; AP Rayons factory in Wardannapet, Mulugu; Hindustan Cables Limited in Hyderabad; Nizam Sugar Factory in Bodan; and Suryavamsi Spinning Mills in Bhongir have been shut down. Thousands of now unemployed workers have been protesting in front of these industries demanding employment. “Workers from the closed industries will be joining protest rallies in their respective mandal or district headquarters. After the BJP government began GST, at least 1,500 small scale and micro industries have been closed,” V Ratnakar Rao, AITUC Telangana General Secretary told NewsClick. He added that all the public and private transport workers including Road Transport Corporation (RTC) employees and workers, auto drivers, taxi drivers and lorry drivers will participate in the strike.
State government employees, both regular and contractual, will be joining the protest, demanding the withdrawal of Contributory Pension Scheme (CPS) and reintroduction of the old scheme. Around 1.25 lakh employees are covered under CPS. Under the previous Pension Scheme, beneficiaries, after retirement, used to receive an accumulated amount which was deducted every month from their salaries. Besides, 50 per cent of the last salary drawn used to be paid as the pension amount to retired employees. Whereas, under CPS, 10 per cent of the salary is deducted and the same amount is contributed by the government. After retirement, 60 per cent of the accumulated amount is handed over to the retired employee, and the remaining 40 per cent is invested in Life Insurance Corporation. The interest on this is paid every month to the retired employee.
Scheme workers such as Anganwadi workers, Midday meal works, Swachh Karmikas and tribals registered with Girijana Cooperative Corporation in the state have already announced to join the massive strike.
The 12-point charter of demands that the trade unions have come up with includes urgent measures for containing price-rise and unemployment, 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.