150 million Indian workers took strike action in what is reported to be the biggest work stoppage in history.
Ten trade union centres and several independent federations joined together for an historic general strike on 8 and 9 January 2019. Workers in manufacturing, mining, energy, transportation, banking, public services, construction and many other sectors took part, including many IndustriALL Global Union affiliates. For the first time, agricultural workers and farmers also called for a solidarity shutdown of rural India.
The unions sent a strong message to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s National Democratic Alliance ahead of the May 2019 general elections.
The key union demand is to engage in genuine consultation with unions over reform of labour laws, including the Trade Union Act 1926. Unions demand that the government ratify ILO Conventions 87 and 98 and stop pro-employer labour law amendments.
IndustriALL general secretary Valter Sanches sent a letter of support, saying:
“Millions of workers took to the streets of India to call attention to the serious deterioration of their working conditions, and to call for the implementation of urgent measures to contain price rise through universalization of public distribution systems and banning of speculative trade in the commodity market; reduce unemployment through concrete measures for employment generation; and achieve the strict enforcement of fundamental labour laws.
“We reiterate our solidarity and support of your demands.”
Unions also demand:
- Universal social security coverage for all workers
- A minimum wage of not less than Rs 15,000 (US$213) per month, with provisions of indexation
- A pension of not less than Rs 3,000 (US$43) per month for the entire working population
- An end to disinvestment in and sale of central public sector enterprises
- An end to casualization of permanent work
- Compulsory registration of trade unions within 45 days