Across the city of Chennai, thousands of workers from public sector companies as well as private industries and informal workers struck work today condemning the proposed changes to labour rights and regulations and demanding that the government shift its anti worker direction. Here is a preliminary report from the ground
Thiruvottiyur Municipal Corporation Office, 10 AM
Over 300 workers and union representatives from all walks of life raised their voice
against the pro corporate labour reforms by BJP led central government. Workers self employed, auto drivers, construction workers and workers from MRF, Ashok Leyland, Hinduja and Eveready factories in North Chennai joined hands to stop anti unionization reforms and demanded social security for all workers. Workers from CITU, AITUC, LPF, MRF Employees Union, Hinduja Employees Union, Ashok Leyland Workers Union, Eveready Workers Union, Manual Loaders Workers Union, Unorganized Sector Workers Union, Barber Workers Union participated in the strike protest. The intention of the strike was expressed in the words of MRF worker “The existing laws and their implementations themselves are not effective enough to protect the workers. The unions and workers are struggling to ensure that these laws are used at workplaces. In this context, the attitude of Modi Government is that these laws are not needed as they stand in the way of increasing the profits of the capitalists and their capital. As a forerunner, Rajasthan has already enacted several amendments and these are now being extended nationwide. If this passes through, the permanent employment will decrease and only contract employment will be available for workers, unionization will be down. These are the issues for which we have come to fight today’
Central Station Gate
A Sea of red flags greeted the commuters at Central Station EMU Service gate, when over 500 workers from different parts of chennai, affiliated to the major trade unions, dalit organizations and Vyabarigal Sangam (Shop owners association), came together to protest the anti worker policies of the ‘Modi’ Government. The leaders from all the leading trade unions spoke to the assmebled workers, where the reitrated their commitment to fight for the roll back of the proposed changes to labour laws and resist the government’s attempts to privatize core sectors like Railways and Banking. Students organizations were also participated in a show of solidarity with the striking workers.
Ambattur Estate Bus Depot:
300 workers from AICCTU, AITUC, CITU and LPF assembled at Ambattur Industrial Estate Bus depot and demostrated against the central government’s anti labour proposals. Among them were workers who are currently fighting against their companies for improved wages and recognition of union. “we are getting a mere rs 10000/- though we are experienced permenanent workers. The union is a management union and does not truly represent us. if the present proposals are passed, it will become even more difficult to fight for a decent wage” said one of the protestors.
Bank Employees Protest near Collector Office
All India Bank Employees Association along with fraternal organizations, organized a protest near Collector office, off 1st lane beach in Chennai. Speaking to the media, C.H Venkatachallam, Gen Sec. of AIBEA maintained that they were participating in the National strike demanding that the government repeal the proposals to change labour laws. He also maintained that AIBEA has also raised certain pertinent issues with the present state of banking. THey have demanded that criminal proceedings be initiated against the likes of Vijay Mallya, who are wilful defaulters of thousands of crores to the banks. He also maintained that further privatization of PSU banks and reforms to the banking sector will be resisted by the employees. “over 5 lakh workers have struck work across India, in the banking sector alone, bank operations have been restricted, and if the government intransigence continues the strike will be intensified” he said. Comrades from Malaysia also particpated in the demostration showing international workers solidarity
The strike at Sholinganaluur junction brought elevent trade unions together. Namely, INTUC, AITUC, HMS, CITU, AIUTUC, TUCC, AICCTU, LPF, WPTUC, MLF, and LLF. It was carried out by over hundred striking workers who energetically shouted slogans like “Don’t sell a worker’s life to corporates” , “You gave subsidies to foreign companies but denied basic rights to Indian labours” and “Who did we vote for? Modi or Corporates!”.
Comrade Appanu spoke about the key issue of minimum wage and about the Indian Labour conference which concluded in July where the representatives of workers had laid out their demands none of which were yet fulfilled. Comrade Vijayakumar spoke about the so called development during last 68 years since India’s independence which was only good for a small strata of the society. He spoke about the changes in Labour laws like increasing the limit of the number of workers who can be laid off to 300 which have already been implemented in Rajasthan. He questioned who is this government for? Is it for the majority of the population or for less then 1 percent of the privileged. Comrade Geeta also spoke about the minimum wage issue and how most of it does not even reach the household thanks to liquor problem which is affecting the working class. She spoke about how the police gives protection to those who wants to buy liquor and charges at those who are demanding abolition of Tarmacs. The migrant workers we spoke to all spoke about the dis-advantages they faced being in contractual position for many years and the lack of decent minimum wage.
Forum for Information Technology Employees (FITE) leafletting draws Police ire
FITE organized a leaflet action in Shollinganallur, in front of the IT offices as part of the National strike. The leaflet, while showing solidarity with the All India Trade Unions, also highlighted the status of IT employees and presented a charter of demands for IT employees. The leaflet can be accessed here FITE Leaflet. A senior leader of FITE, talking to TK alleged that, FITE volunteers were harrassed by the police who threatend to remand them if they continued to distribute the leaflets in the area. This could not be independently verified but TK itself had a similar experience a couple of weeks ago while distributing TK leaflets in Chennai.
Chengalpattu Bus Stand
About 400 workers joined the protest march in Chengalpattu. The unions present were CITU, AITUC and LPF. Kannan,.. of CITU said that the strike is to oppose the corporate friendly policies of the central government. The conditions in factories in Kancheepuram district are already quite oppressive and workers attempting to form unions are victimized by terminating their services. “With the new proposed amendments, conditions are set to get much worse in the factories here”, said Kannan, an office bearer in CITU.
A worker from the company Perfetti, Urapakkam, who is part of CITU, said that the main demand is for a minimum monthly wage of 15,000 rupees for workers. He is a permanent worker, but he said that the strike is also for the demands of temporary workers. The temporary workers in his factory were not allowed to join today’s strike. Another worker from Mohan Brewery and Distilleries Limited, said that the main issue for him is that his employer is not paying towards his PF and ESI. Some government school teachers (mostly women) from Uthrameru, who were part of TNPTF (Tamil Nadu Primary Teachers Federation) had joined the protest. Their demand was that they be given a pension scheme rather than the current CPS scheme. Another government school teacher from Endathur, who is part of Student Teacher Federation of India (STFI) further explained the irregularities in the CPS system. Although teachers have been contributing towards this scheme, a recent RTI revealed that there are no teachers from Tamil Nadu in the list of teachers enrolled in the scheme. Some auto drivers had joined to protest against a proposed amendment which would require that only the registered owner of the vehicle can drive it. Many spare parts manufacturers and repair units joined to protest against the proposed Road Safety Bill. This Bill requires that spare parts of vehicles can only be purchased from the company manufacturing the vehicle (which will inevitably be a large corporation such as Tata). This law would have the effect of shutting down all the small spare part manufacturing units and service centers. Kannan said in his speech that through such laws we are moving to a position where “every nut and bolt we use in our lives is controlled by big corporations”.
More reports awaited…..