On the evening of 2nd September, DTUC (Democratic trade union center) held a public meeting at Red Hills in Thiruvallur district, to discuss the issues facing working class of the country today. The meeting was attended by close to 40 people comprising of workers from greaves Cotton, Street vendors, DTUC members and general public.
The meeting started with a speech by Com.Pon.Eraniyan who gave a passionate speech on the financial difficulties faced by the working class today. Com.Thanga Tamilvelan questioned the idea of development pointing out the paradox of no real growth in wages inspite of growth across sectors of economy. Citing the example of garment workers he said that though they produced clothing that is sold for high price by multi-national corporation, they find it extremely difficult to afford a simple shirt. Highlighting the case of Greaves Cotton workers, who have lost their jobs after the company declared an illegal closure, he spoke about factory clostures that were affecting working class mobilization in the city as the workers went back to their native places from Chennai. Concluding his speech, he said that LPG (Liberalization, Privatization, Globalization) policies had failed the toiling masses of the country and a different solution has to be found which would make sure that economic growth and development went hand in hand.
Com. Venkatesh spoke about difficulties faced by agricultural workers in Tamil Nadu. He said that due to lack of agricultural jobs in rural area, the daily wage labourers there did whatever work came their way and mentioned how caste played a central role in deciding what jobs they got. He added that all the revolutionary unions across the country will have to engage with the unorganized working class of this country for the struggles to be successful.
Com. Sengodi Appu who works with street vendors spoke about the need for such a meeting due to sectarian approach of central trade unions towards other left unions. He spoke about the thousands of workers who were arrested in Chennai on 2nd September for participating in the strike. In his speech Com. Murugan said that Modi government was eradicating whatever little protection workers had through the labour laws. Maintaining the need to move beyond mere economic issues, he said that upliftment of masses not only meant fighting for betters jobs and wages but fighting a variety of factors like caste. He explicitly mentioned the case of Gokulraj, a dalit engineer who was killed for marrying a girl from a different caste.
Comrade Sathish started his speech by highlighting the report by Assocham which stated how the strike had resulted in a loss of 8000 crores to the country. The report also said that the worrying part about these strikes was not just demand for wages and other economic rights but increasing politicization of the workers that was being witnessed. Com.Sathish mentioned how it was this political dimension which worried the ruling class. In this context he mentioned a recent joint platform of 14 revolutionary left trade unions which have come together under a banner called MASA and are planning to do a joint struggle for minimum wage, contract workers and against labour law reforms in various parts of the country. He explained the constitution of MASA which involved unions from Delhi, Rajasthan, Hariyana, Andhra, Chattisgarh , Tamil Nadu and several other parts of the country. Com. Sathish then explained in detail one of the issues DTUC as part of MASA will fight for. That is, the issue of minimum wage. As per the discussion at MASA convention in Delhi it was shown that an absolute minimum for the living wage cannot be less then 22,000. According to Sathish , this is what DTUC will fight for in the immediate future.
He mentioned successful strikes that had taken place in Gurgaon-Manesar belt where 13 workers and activists were even arrested by police for trying to mobilize the workers. And it was only pressure from workers which resulted in these 13 comrades getting released.
The meeting also included speeches from Com. Karunakaran who spoke about impact of privatisation of education and new education policy of Modi government on working class families and by Com. Rajamani who spoke about closure of factories being a long term feature of Tamil-Nadu industrial development as well as failure of legislative assembly to pass even a single pro-labour law.