Dr. G. Sanjeeva Reddy, President of IndustriALL affiliate Indian National Metal Workers’ Federation (INMF) and the President of Indian National Trade Union Congress (INTUC) addressing the gathering at the convention.

Trade unions in India are calling for a general strike on 2 September 2016.

Indian trade unions intensify struggle to win workers' rights

14.04.2016

India’s central trade unions are calling on workers, peasants and citizens to join general strike on 2 September 2016 to defend workers’ rights. 

More than a thousand representatives from 11 central trade unions and federations including IndustriALL Global Union affiliates gathered in New Delhi for the national convention of workers on 30 March 2016. The convention was organized by Joint Platform of the Central Trade Unions of India along with Independent National Federations of employees of different Industries and Services.

Union leaders at the convention called for strengthening and widening the unity of working people and the struggles against the anti-worker and anti-people policies of the government. The joint declaration issued by the unions, criticized the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government led by Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) for being arrogant and ignoring the twelve points charter of demands, which were unanimously formulated by all central trade unions. 

The government was also criticized for not taking meaningful steps to curb the rise in prices of essential commodities, generate employment, and for policies that make it harder for the most needy people to get state assistance.

Unions also took strong objections to imposition of additional duty on diesel, doubling tax on coal, increase in indirect taxes in the 2016-17 budget, increase in all petroleum products prices, which will cause a rise in cost of daily necessities. Unions denounced the government’s inaction over retrieving money stashed in tax havens and lack of efforts on recovering the Rs.4.04 lakh crores (US$62 billion) of Bad Debts, which are called Non-performing Assets (NPA) of Public Sector Banks.

Unions castigated the government for attempting to remove all rights components in the labour laws, creating obstacles for even registering unions in its efforts to attract multinational corporations and to promote ‘hire and fire’ policies.

In addition to disinvestment, the government proposal to sell top profit making central public sector undertakings (PSUs) will lead to transfer of ownership and management control of PSUs to private corporations.

Trade unions also took strong objection to the government’s refusal to implement key recommendations, including increasing minimum wages and equal pay for precarious workers on a par with permanent workers.

The workers’ convention made a three-pronged action plan to achieve their demands:

  • Workers will hold joint conventions and campaigns during June and July 2016 in states, districts and at industry level and take initiatives to involved wider society in the campaign.
  • A day-long mass peaceful protest/sit in in the state capital and industrial centres preferably on 9 August 2016 in preparation for the strike.
  • All India General strike on 2 September 2016.

The twelve-point charter of unions’ demands:

  1. Urgent measures for containing price-rise through the universalization of public distribution system and banning speculative trade in the commodity markets
  2. Concrete measures for employment generation
  3. Strict enforcement of all basic labour laws without any exception or exemption and stringent punitive measures for violation of labour laws
  4. Universal social security cover for all workers.
  5. Minimum wages of not less than Rs 18,000/- per month with provisions of indexation.
  6. Assured enhanced pension not less than Rs.3,000/- p.m. for the entire working population.
  7. Stoppage of disinvestment in central/public sector undertakings
  8. Stoppage of contractorization in permanent perennial work and payment of the same wage and benefits for contract workers as regular workers equal work
  9. Removal of all ceilings on payment and eligibility of bonus, provident fund, increase the quantum of gratuity
  10. Compulsory registration of trade unions within a period of 45 days from the date of submitting application and immediate ratification of ILO Conventions 87 and 98.
  11. No Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in railways, defense and other strategic and core sectors
  12. No unilateral amendments to labour laws.