Over 300 workers and union representatives from various unions in South Chennai participated in street corner meetings and demonstrations organized to commemorate the ‘Quit India Movement’ and to spread awareness on the planned national strike on September 2nd. The union representatives from CITU, AITUC, AICCTU, AIUTUC, LPF, HMS and INTUC addressed the gathering. The representatives used the occasion to distribute pamphlets elucidating the 12 core demands of the planned National General Strike.
The speakers including CITU, AITUC and LPF representatives spoke on various issues including the demands of the strike. Speaking on the occasion, Comrade Vijayakumar of CITU, said that the Government was forced to revise its decision to change the labour laws due to the success of the 2015 September 2nd strike. He said that it was imperative for the working class to continue to fight for its rights as the neo-liberal regime continues unchecked. He explained the recent death of a student, who was forced to commit suicide when Reliance, who has been contracted as the collection agency for State Bank of India, harassed the unemployed youth on unpaid education loans and the death of a farmer, who was forced to commit suicide after paying 90% of his loan. The event invoked positive response from the commuters including a group of students in a college bus.
Comrade Srinivasan of AITUC highlighted the uprising of Dalits in Gujarat after the fascist ‘Cow Protection’ vigilante groups have unleashed violence on Dalits for alleged slaughtering of a cow. The muted and delayed response by Prime Minister was deplored by several members.
Comrade Santhanam of Writers Union, praised the spontaneous response of a wider working class to the call of national strike by central trade unions last year and highlighted the various movements, apart from central trade unions, that played a critical role in the success of the strike. He asked how can Modi’s economic policy be development oriented when there is the increasing unemployment with only one lakh employment created while one crore people getting ready for employment every year.
Comrade Vijaya of CITU and an organizer of workers in Malar Hospital asked how the wage of workers can be kept flat while there is rampant price rise continuously. She reminded that the planned strike will be led by the working class for the betterment of whole India and not just for itself.
Comrade Sivaraman of Transport Workers Union highlighted the conditions of public transport system where the Government keeps announcing welfare policies for the citizens but kept the workforce contractualized. He said that the transport workers have been supporting all the 17 strikes so far and pledged to support the upcoming strike.
Over hundred workers, primarily from the auto drivers unions and domestic workers unions participated the demonstration held to raise awareness about the national general strike and explain the key demands to the workers and the public. The meeting began to songs decrying caste system and untouchability. Slogans were raised against the central and state governments for their anti worker policies while demanding the immediate implementation of the 12 point demands of the joint committee of central trade unions.
Com. V. Thomas, from CITU, presiding over the event highlighted the indifferent attitude of the present government and the series of labour law relaxations being given to the companies in the name of development. Com. Kumaresh of AICCTU, condemning the labour law reforms said that these reforms instead of improving on the existing rights of the workers is actually undermining labour rights.
Even though rain disrupted the meeting, others who spoke later dealt with various issues of organized and unorganized workers and explained the 12 point charter of demands and the efforts that have been taken so far to achieve the goals. Workers pledged to support the General Strike and make it a big success.
Protest meetings were also organized at MMDA Colony, Arumbakkam and in Tamabaram
The demands include
Action to control price rise
- Declare a minimum wage not less than Rs 18000/- a month and implement it
- On the principle of equal pay for equal work, guarantee equal pay and benefits for contract workers on par with permanent workers
- Do not sell public sector companies or its shares to private corporations
- Enhanced compensation for accidental death at work, natural death and pension be raised to Rs 4000/-
- Strengthen Public Distribution System
- Increase employment opportunities and fill vacant positions
- implement time based wage in anaganwadi, TASMAC, local bodies and cooperatives
- Repeal the new pension scheme and re implement the old pension scheme
- Repeal the Road Transport (safety) Act 2015
- Implement ILO conventions 87 and 98
- Enact Trade Union recognition Act