Persecution of workers in Magick Woods Exports in Maraimalai Nagar

Permanent workers of Magick Woods Exports in Maraimalai nagar have been suspended and terminated on various charges since 2012. According to workers, the persecution is due to the unionization efforts and ongoing legal battle for minimum wage payments in the factory.

Magick woods,specializing in furniture and vanity products for homes, has its headquarters in Canada. It has a manufacturing base in Maraimalai nagar near Chennai and in China. The Indian factory, employing 48 permanent workers and an estimated 350+ contract workers, is responsible for manufacturing wooden cabinets and furnitures for the company. The permanent workers are male workers and contract workers are predominantly female, according to workers. The work activities usually include providing finishing for the products and painting, done by both permanent and contract workers.

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Public meeting on continuing slum eviction in Chennai

Transparent Cities Network (TCN) organized a public meeting on Saturday, August 8, to discuss land rights and tenure security in Chennai. In the last 30 years, demolition of slums and eviction of their residents has been an all too frequent occurence. In the last ten years alone, at least 63 evictions have taken place affecting over 150,000 people. The most recent incident is the demolition in Govindasamy Nagar (near Greenways MRTS), where demolitions took place as recently as Friday, August 7.

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Good Times!! Bad Times!!

What does the current and proposed labour reforms mean for future working class?

India is one of the youngest countries in the world. Most Indians are below the age of 25. As per the 2011 Census, we will be adding over 2.5 crore people to our workforce every year for the next 10 years. This is referred to as the ‘Demographic Dividend’, an opportunity for India to become an economic super power because of the large working population. Yet if the government continues to dilute our labour laws in the name of economic growth, who will reap the gains? Who will suffer the cost? 

LabourReforms-Part1
LabourReforms-Part2 States are mandated to set up minimum wage to ensure a decent standard of living for a family. In 2014, minimum monthly wage for a semi skilled worker in the electronics industry was Rs 6650 in Tamil Nadu. A worker with the same skill in Rajasthan in the same industry would only earn Rs 5174. The only way to ensure that all states have a decent minimum wage is by having a national minimum wage as implemented in the US. But through the Labour Code on Wages Bill 2015, the Central Government will absolve itself of making any minimum wage provision. Only state governments will set up the minimum wage. State governments will keep the minimum wage low in order to compete with one another in attracting industries. (Source: TN GOs and paycheck.in)

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ஆந்திரா சிறைகளில் வாடும் தொழிலாளர்களுக்கு சட்ட உதவி கோரி உண்ணாவிரதப் போராட்டம்

செம்மரக் கடத்தலில் 20 தொழிலாளர்கள் என்கவுன்டரில் சுடப்பட்டு படுகொலை செய்யபட்டனர். மேலும் ஆயிரக்கணக்கான தொழிலாளர்கள் ஆந்திராவில் சிறையிடப்பட்டுள்ளனர். அவர்கள் கைது செய்யபட்டு 2 வருடங்களாகியும், அவர்களின் விசாராணை மேற்கொள்ளபடவில்லை. பலர், குற்றத்திற்கு மேலாகவே தண்டனை அனுபவித்து வருகின்றனர். இந்த தொழிலாளர்களை பிணையில் விடுவிக்கவும், அவர்களுக்கு சட்டரீதியான உதவிகளை செய்ய கூறியும் மாநில அரசை வற்புறுத்தி, ஒரு நாள் உண்ணாவிரத போராட்டம் ஆகஸ்ட் 7 அன்று வள்ளுவர் கோட்டத்தில் நடைபெற்றது. அகில இந்திய மக்கள் மேடை சார்பாக நடைபெற்ற இந்த போராட்டத்தில் விழுப்புரம், சேலம், தர்மபுரி ஆகிய மாவட்டங்களிலிருந்து கைது செய்யபட்ட தொழிலாளர்களின் குடும்பத்தினர் பங்கேற்றனர்.

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Relatives of workers imprisoned in Andhra Pradesh hold hunger fast

The encounter killing of 20 tamil workers in Seshachalam forests of Andhra Pradesh in the context of redwood tree smuggling, was yet another instance of working class paying with its blood for the avarice of the capital and political mafia. A fact finding team constituted in the aftermath of the encounter, recorded the political and international capital nexus of the smuggling and how the target of the police to evade actions on the real culprits shifted to migrants – workers and otherwise. The encounter killing brought to light, the imprisonment of thousands of workers and tribals from Villupuram, Salem, Dharmapuri and Thiruvannamalai districts. Majority of these workers are still languishing as undertrials for more than 2 years.

A hunger fast in Valluvar kottam by the relatives of the jailed workers highlighted the plight of the migrants and sought Tamil Nadu Government’s intervention in release of these workers. The hunger fast is the 5th protest organized by All India People’s Forum, a federation of trade unions and human rights organizations including AICCTU, NTUI, ULF and NCHRO. Earlier protests were organized in Villupuram, Kalatakurichi, Velli malai and Thachiraya palayam.

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Anganwadi workers movement forces the Kejriwal Government to accept all demands

Press Statement

August 1, Delhi. On the 23rd day of the Dharna and the 7th day of Indefinite Hunger Strike, the Kejriwal government finally gave in to the demands of the Anganwadi workers. It is noteworthy that the Anganwadi workers and helpers of Delhi were on strike since July 7. The Kejriwal government of Delhi had been refusing to even meet the workers and listen to their demands. As a result, the workers first resorted to relay hunger strike of 3 days from 20th to 22nd July and then to indefinite hunger strike from 23rd July to 29th July. Meanwhile, the women workers of anganwadi sent a letter to the Chief Justice of Delhi High Court and National Human Rights Commission. Besides, a delegation of striking workers also met the principal secretary of Lt. Gov. Najeeb Jung. The Lt. Governer’s Office had sent a letter to the Kejriwal government’s Child and Women Development Minister Sandeep Kumar and his secretary, asking for explanation.

Victory March-4

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Welfare access restricted is welfare denied – AITUC protests against Tamil Nadu Labour Welfare Board

While Tamil Nadu Construction Workers Welfare Board has accumulated over Rs 1000 crores as cess for the social security of construction workers, the increased retrictions and inaccessibility to welfare schemes has workers and unions fuming. According to Labour Department, the cess received between 2011 and 2015 is over 330 crore Rupees, where as the disbursement is merely 163 crore rupees for the same period. The state of other welfare boards(Tamil Nadu has over 14 welfare boards providing social security for unorganized sector workers) is much worse as they do not have a cess for social security.

AITUC Construction Workers Protest2
Jayanthi, a tailor registered under Tamil Nadu Manual Workers Welfare board and a mother of 2 young children lives in Korukkupettai, North Chennai. The Labour Welfare board office was situated in Mint of North Chennai and was easier for her to access when applying for labour welfare schemes. The Mint office in predominanly working class neighborhood of North Chennai has been closed and moved to Anna Nagar, in East Chennai. More over, the Labour Department has also made it mandatory for workers to appear for not only registration but availing of labour welfare schemes. The restrictions in application of social security in tandem with consolidation of Labour Departments has severely restricted the access of social security for the unorganized sector workers in the city.

These issues and other demands were raised in a gherao protest organized by AITUC on July 21st in Chennai. Comrade S. Moorthy, North Chennai District Secretary of AITUC reflected that since the start of the labour welfare boards in 20 years, there has been no increase in the compensation of various welfare schemes. These include Rs 1 lakh for accidental death assistance, Rs50000 for natural death assistance, Rs 2000 for funeral assistance and Rs 6000 for maternity assistance. AITUC has demanded Rs 5 lakh for natural death, Rs 10 lakh for deaths due to accidents, 1 lakh Rs for marriage assistance, Rs 60000 for maternity assistance and Rs 25000 for funeral assistance. Comrade Moorthy also said that even the existing assitances are not paid timely as applications are rejected on flimsy excuses and workers asked to appear in person for every review. He condemned the sidelining of unions in the functioning of welfare boards and said this only makes the system more opaque.

Srinivasan, South Chennai District President of AITUC said that the ‘state Government collects cess from construction works mainly for providing welfare to the construction workers. Not disbursing what is workers’ funds to workers is tantamount to cheating’. Over 50 workers and union representatives participated in the gherao. Protestes were also held through out Tamil Nadu.

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நல வாரியக் கொள்கைகளை எதிர்த்து ஏஐடியுசி சங்க அமைப்பு சாரா தொழிலாளர்கள் போராட்டம்

தொழிலாளர் நல வாரியங்களில் செயல்படுத்தப்படும் தொழிலாளர் விரோதப் போக்கை கண்டித்து, தமிழ்நாடு முழுவதும் மாவட்ட நலவாரிய முற்றுகைப் போராட்டங்கள் தமிழ்நாடு ஏஐடியுசி கட்டடத் தொழிலாளர் சங்கம் சார்பில் ஜுலை 21 அன்று நடை பெற்றது. சென்னை அண்னாநகரில் நடைபெற்ற இந்த போராட்டத்தில். 50க்கும் மேற்பட்ட தொழிலாளர்களும், சங்க பிரதிநிதிகளும் கலந்து கொண்டனர்.

AITUC Construction Workers Protest1

போராட்டத்தில் பேசிய வட சென்னை மாவட்டச் செயலாளர் தோழர் மூர்த்தி, “நலவாரியங்கள் செயல்படத் துவங்கி 20 வருட காலங்களில் தொழிலாளர்களின் நலப் பயன்கள் மாறவில்லை” எனக் குறிப்பிட்டார். தற்போது, இயற்கை மரணங்களுக்கு ரூ50000, வேலையில் ஏற்படும் மரணங்களுக்கு ரூ1 லட்சம், ஈமச்சடங்குகளுக்கு ரூ2000 மற்றும் பேறுகால உதிவிகளுக்கு ரூ6000 கொடுக்கப்படுகிறது. விபத்து மரணத்திற்கு ரூ 10 லட்சம், இயற்கை மரணத்திற்கு ரூ 5 லட்சம், திருமணத்திற்கு ரூ 1லட்சம், பிரசவகால உதவியாக ரூ60 ஆயிரம், ஈமச்சடங்குக்கு ரூ25 ஆயிரம் என உயர்த்த வேண்டி சங்கப் பிரதிநிதிகள் கோரிக்கைகள் எழுப்பினர்.

தற்போது கொடுக்கப்படு;ம் பயன்கள் கூட சரியாக கொடுக்கப்படுவதில்லை என்று தொழிலாளர்கள் கூறினர். தொழிலாளர் பதிவு மட்டுமன்றி பணப்பயன் மனுக்கள் கொடுப்பதற்கும், தொழிலாளர்கள் நேரில் வரவேண்டும் என்று தொழிலாளர் நலத் துறை கூறுகிறது. முன்பு மின்ட் அருகே இருந்த நல வாரியம் மூடப்பட்டு, அண்ணாநகருக்கு மாற்றப்பட்டு விட்டதால், தொழிலாளர் நேரில் வருவதற்கு மேலும் கடினமாக உள்ளதாக கொருக்குப்பேட்டையில் தையல் தொழிலாளராக வேலை செய்யும் ஜெயந்தி கூறினார். அமைப்புசாரா தொழிலாளர்களுக்கு வேலை செய்தாலே கூலி என்ற நிலைமையில், தொழிலாளர்களை நேரில் வரச் சொல்வது என்பது நலத்துறையின் தொழிலாளர் விரோதப் போக்கையை வெளிப்படுத்துகிறது. மேலும் அற்பமான காரணங்களை வைத்து மனுக்களை நிராகரிக்கும் நலத்துறை போக்கினை தோழர் மூர்த்தி சுட்டிக்காட்டினார்.

கட்டத் தொழிலாளர்கள் நலவாரியம் கட்டுமான பணிகளிலிருந்து ரூ1000 கோடிக்கு மேலாக வரியாக வசூலித்து உள்ளது. இந்த வரியின் நோக்கமே தொழிலாளர்களின் சமூகப்பாதுகாப்புக்குதான். இவ்வாறு வசூலிக்கப்படுகின்ற தொழிலாளர்களின் பணத்தை தொழிலாளர்களுக்கு தராமல் ஏய்க்கும் மாநில அரசின் செயல்பாட்டை கண்டித்தார் தென் சென்னை மாவட்ட தலைவர் தோழர் சீனிவாசன். தொழிலாளர் பதிவுகளில் தொழிற்சங்கங்களை புறக்கணிப்பதை கண்டித்தும், நலவாரியத்தை தன்னாட்சி அதிகாரம் கொண்ட முத்தரப்பு குழுவினை அமைத்து செயல்படுத்த வேண்டும் என்ற கோரிக்கைகள் ஆர்ப்பாட்டத்தில் எழுப்பப் பட்டது.

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Social Security is not a Charity, It is a Social Obligation

says Harsha Mander at the Public Hearing on Pensions Issues in Tamilnadu

Pension Parishad, an All India coalition of mass organizations and NGOs working on issues of social security, organized a public hearing in Chennai on issues in implementation of pension and social security schemes in Tamilnadu at ICSA, Egmore or 21st July 2015. Making his concluding remarks, Harsh Mander, (retired IAS officer), Supreme Court appointed Commissioner on Food Security, pointed out the centrality of social security in a welfare state, maintaining that at no point should we allow these to be compared to charity. He said that these are obligations that we as a nation make to our citizens, who have worked hard and are now old, who have been disadvantaged due to social circumstance or have been discriminated against. The pensions and social welfare measures are a way of repaying our debt and protecting our fellow citizens in their time of need. Outlaying the various issues that had been discussed, he said “we always rate Tamilnadu as one of the best performing states when it comes to issues of social welfare and so it severely pains me to know about the difficulties people face here to avail their rights, it is also a grim reminder of how bad the condition is in the rest of the nation. We have a serious crisis here.”

 

Panel Members Listen to Testimonies

Panel Members Listen to Testimonies

Harsh Mander Making Concluding Remarks

Harsh Mander Making Concluding Remarks

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History of Trade Unionism – Public Meeting by Forum for IT Employees

Sushmita

Forum for IT Employees(FITE) was formed in the aftermath of massive TCS lay-offs in late 2014-early 2015 and is made up of young workers working in IT companies. Besides job lay-offs, the group addresses various worker issues in IT industry including non-payment of salaries, biased appraisals etc. FITE has over one thousand members across India, of whom 250 are in Chennai. In an effort to promote unionization among IT workers, FITE organized a public meeting on the history of labour movement in India. Two speakers addressed the public: Comrade Vijayan, a veteran union leader in SPIC who has worked in Tuticorin, Chennai and Baroda, and Dr. V. Krishna Kumar, the President of Forum for Physiotherapists, Tamil Nadu.

According to Comrade Vijayan, the first industrial workers in England were migrants from villages who had been farmers or were in other occupations. They were uprooted and placed in new occupations in factories where they were now just individuals fighting for their rights. The working hours were long and they had no time for their family, the wages were low and housing was abysmal. In course of time workers realized that they were all facing the same issues. Their organizations gradually evolved from workers welfare committees and associations to trade unions. In response to their struggles, the English Government passed a series of laws called the Factory Acts which regulated the number of working hours, working conditions in factories and safety conditions .

In the 1850s, British systems of factory production were imported to India but not the protective laws, like the Factory Acts. In the nascent stage of labour struggle in India, labour issues were taken up by concerned. observers, like social reformers and journalists. Demands focused on working conditions for women and children. Workers started getting together to discuss issues in associations, clubs or sabhas. For example, the Amalgamated Society of Railway Servants in India was one such society in 1897. The Madras and Calcutta Postal Unions were set up in 1907. These processes were similar to what happened in England.

Madras Labour Union, one of the first organized labour unions in India, was started by B.P.Wadia, a student of Annie Besant. The union launched a strike against abysmal working conditions in Binny Mills, Madras (aka Buckingham and Carnatic Mills). The workers went on a hunger strike, but the management did not budge. The workers were forced to go back to work. In 1921, there was another strike, which lasted for six months. The strike was finally broken up on caste grounds. After the strike ended, Binny Mills filed a case against B P Wadia. He was charged with inciting workers and causing the mills to lose money. The court ruled against Wadia and fined him Rs 71,000, which he could not pay. The court then ordered him to retire from public life.

The radicalism and outrage built up as a result of this strike led to the passage of the Indian Trade Union Act. Article 17 and 18 of the Act decriminalized trade unions. This Act gave workers the right to form a union. Specifically, a group consisting of a minimum of seven workers could register themselves as a Union. It is interesting to note that this law has still not been enforced in spirit. We see today in the case of IT workers, that people are still afraid of being associated to a union.

In the early stages of the independence movement (for example during the Binny mills strike), labour activism was connected to mainstream political parties (for example Congress). But this changed as India approached freedom in 1947. Mainstream politics started to adopt terms like ‘constructive criticism’ and ‘nation-building’ and distanced themselves from labour activism. For example, in February 1946, various units of the Royal Indian Navy went on strike. The ‘mutiny’ started as a complaint about substandard food on a vessel off the coast of Bombay, but it soon spread to other parts of the country. Sailors abroad a vessel off the coast of Karachi went on strike. Officers in Indian army and air force also refused to take orders. The Congress party and the Muslim League strongly criticized these actions.

The discussion after the talk was focussed on the practical challenges in building a union in current day workplace. The task of organizing labour has gotten much harder than it was before the 1990s. As an example, the Trade Union Act was amended in 2001 to require a minimum of 100 members for the registration of a trade union, instead of the 7 required by the Act of 1926. The speakers also discussed the difficulties of organizing in an industry (like IT) where no unions exist. Although some companies do not explicitly forbid union activities, most employees believe that they are not allowed to join a union. In a hostile environment like this, even if one is able to form a union in a company, the union will face challenges because of the absence of unions in rival companies. The presence of a union in a company may be used to tarnish the image of the company on the grounds that worker strikes could delay the products being delivered on time. In an environment where any worker organization is viewed suspiciously, the speakers recommended adopting tactful approaches. The goals of workers’ organizations can be presented as being in the interests of the management, as they address workers’ problems and thus increase efficiency. For example, a redressal mechanism for a biased reprisal given by an immediate supervisor might contribute to a better work environment overall. The speakers emphasized the importance of maintaining good personal relations with everybody in the workplace, as a lot of workers’ issues require solutions that involve complex interpersonal interactions. After all, the worker is not in conflict with the supervisor on a personal level. The conflict of interest arises because the capitalist mode of production assigns adversarial roles to the worker and supervisor.

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