Close to 100 members of the Revolutionary Youth Association and the Democratic Advocates Association were detained today as they gheraoed the Labour Commissionerate in Chennai. Calling for rights of young workers, the organisations demanded-
- Abolition of the exploitative apprentice and contract labour system;
- Enacting rules to ensure that amendments to the Standing Orders Act which limit the number of non permanent workers come into force;
- Framing a legislation requiring the recognition of trade union (in line with the existing laws in Kerala and West Bengal);
- A minimum wage of Rs.20000 per month for all workers
- Releasing a white paper on the tax breaks and incentives given to multinational and domestic companies.
Representatives of the group had already submitted a petition to the Labour Department on 23rd March this year, but no action was taken, prompting the gherrao.
The DMS Complex which houses the Labour Commissionerate was filled with more than 100 policemen and women from 9am. By 10am, the police began to restrict the entry of people into the complex and insisted on ID cards to be allowed into the gate. As members of RYA and DAA gathered on the main road, workers from various factories including Asian Paints, Sanmina, contract employees of Vandalur zoo joined them to support the protest.
The protesters asked to be let into the DMS Complex but were aggressively prevented by the police who violently shoved them aside and erected barricades. Com.Sita, a young law student and committee member of RYA was carried away into the police van. Com. Bharati addressed the gathering and said that the labour department must not turn into a department for the employers. He also attacked the state government for failing to stand up to the central government’s anti worker policies.
Com.AS Kumar of AICCTU demanded to see any order which prevented the entry of workers into the Labour Commissioner’s office complex. “This is proof that we are living in an undemocratic police state. Who authorised the prevention of our entry? How can workers be prevented from entering a government office that is supposed to be answerable to them?”, he said. Talking to police personnel, Com.Kumar and senior leaders said that the police and the government were making a mockery of the constitution. “You are being paid by the general public and the workers, but you are only working against them”, he said.
The protesters were detained and let off at 6pm in the evening. 5 representatives met the Labour Minister at the Secretariat and presented various documents to him including Supreme Court orders on equal wages for equal work, a copy of the model standing orders of Maharashtra (1977). Com. Dhanavel, General Secretary of RYA told Thozhilalar Koodam that the Minister has promised to take the demands to the notice of the Chief Minister. “If we do not see any action, we are prepared for a much bigger agitation along with AICCTU”, he said.