Eleven Trade Unions including INTUC, AITUC, HMS, CITU, AIUTUC, TUCC, AICCTU, LPF, WPTUC, MLF, and LLF led a strike protest on Sholinganallur Junction at 10AM. 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 of CITU spoke about the key issue of minimum wage which the workers and unions are demanding to be 15,000 per month. He said how this very same morning, some one asked him that the government is set to propose a minimum wage of 7500 per month. and if indeed that was the case then why are the workers unhappy? Comrade Appanu mentioned that even if this proposal even if true is exactly half of the minimum salary workers are demanding! And this is one of the key reasons for the Strike !
Appanu pointed to the Indian Labour conference, an annual tripartite conference between Government, Workers and Corporates. In the last conference that took place in July and was inaugurated by the Prime Minister, very specific demands were made by the trade unions on the mininum wage and other pro worker reforms. However, none of these have been fulfilled. He also spoke about the support this strike has received from various quarters including Student movements such as Democratic Youth federation of India and public sector employees including Union of Banking employees and employees of BSNL.
Comrade Vijayakumar said that “the so called development during last 68 years since India’s
independence was good only for a small strata of the society”. He condemned the move of Rajasthan Government which has also amended anti labour policies including increasing the number of workers which can be laid off without Government’s permission from 100 to 300. He mentioned the increasing contractualization makes it difficult to organise even legal strikes. He finally questioned who is this government for? Is it for the majority of the population or for less then one percent of the privileged.
Comrade Geeta spoke passionately 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 participating in the strike spoke about the dis-advantages they faced being in contractual position for many years and the lack of decent wage. One worker (name withheld for consent reasons) from Orissa who works in Perungudi area told us about how he has been on contract for over two years and inspite of initial promises, he has not been made permanent. He also mentioned how it is difficult for him to get leave. He was only granted two days of vacation in past one year which made it impossible for him to go and visit his family. Two other workers from Assam spoke about difficult working conditions and most importantly unsatisfactory wages. One of them said how after six years of work in packaging , he earns a meagre 9000 per month which is not sufficient to support his family back home. The workers agreed with the trade union demands that 15,000 per month as a minimum wage is a must for any worker as ever rising inflation means that families are running constantly running on debt.