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India: workers’ strike ahead of upcoming general elections

16 February, 2024Today millions of workers in India went on strike to highlight real issues of working people ahead of the country’s upcoming general elections this year. Main demands of trade union organisations include withdrawal of the four labour codes, fixing the minimum wage at INR26,000 (US$313), withdrawal of the proposal to privatise public sector enterprises, including the Vishakhapatnam Steel Plant, and restoration of the old pension scheme for organised and unorganised workforces. 

The Joint Platform of Central Trade Unions in India, along with sectoral and independent federations, and farmers’ organisations called for a countrywide strike today to intensify the fight against the anti-labour and anti-people policies of the ruling party. Trade union organisations have been continuously campaigning to assert the rights of working people, which are under severe attack in the current regime.

Trade unions in India wrote to the ILO Governing Body in June last year to draw the organization’s attention to the anti-worker provisions in the country's four newly promulgated labour laws which only suit the requirements of corporate groups. The ruling party has also undermined the tripartite structure by not hosting a labour conference since the current government came to power. Government’s decision to not include independent unions from participating in the G20. Designating right-wing union Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh as the chair of the L20 meetings is another indication of the suppression of pro-workers’ voices in the country. 

Sanjay Vadhavkar, general secretary of Steel, Metal and Engineering workers’ Federation of India, an IndustriALL affiliate, says:

“The current government has failed to fulfil the promises it made ahead of the last elections. The government’s anti-labour policies have damaged decent work, causing immense distress to millions of workers in the country. We are campaigning to save our constitution and fundamental labour rights from the present onslaught of the government and will support the party which promises us that they will honour their commitments to protect present labour laws and the constitution.” 

Kemal Özkan, IndustriALL’s assistant general secretary, says:

“IndustriALL Global Union stands in solidarity with the Indian trade union movement in its struggle to defend workers’ rights and protect and strengthen democratic institutions and practices. We condemn the Indian government’s constant attacks to undermine the tripartite structure in the country.”

In addition, trade unions are also advocating for their longstanding demands for scrapping fixed-term employment, ending the use of contracts, and making guaranteed employment a fundamental right.