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Indian unions mobilize for national strike

8 October, 2020Indian unions are calling for a nationwide strike on 26 November as a protest against the Modi government’s attacks on workers’ rights and poor Covid-19 response.

On 22 and 23 September, while the opposition parties were boycotting the Parliament and protesting against an anti-farmers bill, the Modi government passed three labour codes without proper debate.

During a national convention on 2 October, trade union leaders from INTUC, AITUC, HMS, CITU, AIUTUC, TUCC, SEWA, AICCTU, LPF, UTUC and Independent Federations/Associations called for a nationwide strike, underlining the undemocratic means used to pass sweeping labour law changes, as well as the poor government response to the debilitating impacts of Covid-19 lockdown on people’s livelihood.

Dr. G. Sanjeeva Reddy, president of Indian National Trade Union Congress, says:

“The Covid-19 lockdown has resulted in misery as millions of workers have lost their livelihoods. The Modi government is one of the most anti-workers government India has ever had and its approach to workers’ welfare is worse than during colonial rule. Established democratic and constitutional norms and principles are not respected. We have to keep up a relentless struggle.”

Union leaders are concerned about the impact of the Covid-19 lockdown, as millions of workers have lost their livelihoods, and hundreds of thousands of workers have returned to India as they lost their jobs abroad. While some factories have resumed operations, it is far from the pre-pandemic situation.

The Modi government has failed to deliver credible relief measures and is refusing to hold genuine consultations.

As a response, union leaders are calling on workers to mobilize on 26 November with demands including monthly cash transfers for poor households, free food rations, withdrawal of anti-farmer laws and anti-labour codes, an end to privatization of the public sector and an end to the corporatization of public sector manufacturing facilities and service institutions like railways and ports.

Kemal Özkan, IndustriALL assistant general secretary, says:

“Indian trade unions are vehemently opposing labour law changes and the indiscriminate privatization of public sector undertakings. We appeal to the government of India to no longer ignore workers’ voices and to consult with unions to find solutions to the concerns. Together with other global unions, IndustriALL stands in solidarity with the Indian trade union movement.”