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Unions unite for all India protest against anti-worker policies

11 March, 2016On March 10, Indian central trade unions joined forces to call on the government to return to the negotiating table and respond to their 12 point charter.

The unions called an all India protest day on 10 March 2016, as the government of India appears indifferent to union demands, and has failed to present concrete resolutions.

Since 2009, India’s central trade unions (CTUs) have worked across ideological differences and party lines, and have taken many joint initiatives to defend workers’ rights and to protest anti-labour policies.

The March 10 day of action is part of a series of joint national level actions, including massive national strikes and protests on 2 September 2015, 5 December 2014, 12 December 201328 February 2012 and historic march to parliament on 23 February 2011.

Despite this, the Indian government is going ahead with business friendly, anti-labour policies, including proposed labour law amendments, disinvestment and privatization of public sector undertakings, and allowing foreign direct investment in strategic sectors, directly affecting workers’ welfare.

Indian central trade unions expressed deep concerns that even without legislating, many anti-worker labour laws amendments are pushed through by executive orders and by directing state governments to carry out pro-corporate amendments.

In stark contrast to workers’ demands, in the budget for 2016-17 the government broke with the tradition of exempting Employees’ Provident Funds (EPF) from tax, and proposed a tax on EPF withdrawal on 60% of contributions made after April 1 2016, to EPF and other such schemes. The government was forced to withdraw the tax proposal due to widespread protests.

The CTUs extended support to the proposed strike call given by central government employees in railways, defence and the postal service from 11 July 2016, and also to coal workers’ joint agitation, including the one day strike on 29th March, 2016.

CTUs joining the protest action include BMS, INTUC, AITUC, HMS, CITU, AIUTUC, TUCC, SEWA, AICCTU, UTUC and LPF. It is important to note that the Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh (BMS), trade union wing of the ruling party also joined the action.

IndustriALL affiliates, including Hind Khadan Mazdoor Federation, Indian National Metal and Mine Workers' Federations, and Steel, Metal & Engineering Workers' Federation of India held demonstrations.

The central trade unions’ 12 demands:

  1. No casualization of permanent or perennial work to contractors. The nature of employment, payment of wages and benefits to contract workers must be at the same rate as regular workers in the industry or establishment.
  2. Amendment of the Minimum Wages Act to ensure universal coverage, irrespective of schedules. The statutory minimum wage to be not less than Rs 15,000/-.
  3. Removal of all ceilings on payment and eligibility for bonuses and provident fund. Increase the quantum of gratuity.
  4. An assured pension for all.
  5. Concrete measures for creating jobs.
  6. Strict enforcement of labour laws.
  7. Universal social security cover for unorganized workers, and the creation of a National Social Security Fund.
  8. Compulsory registration of trade unions within a period of 45 days, and immediate ratification of ILO Conventions Nos. 87 and 98.
  9. Concrete measures to contain price rises.
  10. Ending disinvestment in central and state public sector undertakings
  11. No to foreign direct investment in railways, defence and other strategic sectors
  12. No unilateral amendments to labour laws.

The central trade unions will hold a National Convention of Workers in New Delhi on 30th March, 2016 to decide on next phase of the action programme against the anti-labour policies of the government.