As over 500 workers and union representatives assembled in front of Motcham Theater in Chennai’s busy Millers Road, we spoke to some of the workers who had participated in the September 2nd Strike. The strike was attended by permanent and contract workers from public and private sectors. Unions including CITU, AICCTU, AITUC, AIUTUC, LPF participated in the strike.
The striking members assembled near Motcham Theater and moved to the intersection around 10 AM. There was heavy police presence. At 10:30 AM, the assembled representatives moved towards the BSNL office but were barricaded by pickets set in front of the office. The protesters then sat on the road at various points of the interaction and raised slogans against the anti labour policies of the Central Government and on the charter of demands by Central Unions. They were arrested around 11AM by the Police and moved from the protest site. While traffic on Purasaiwakkam High Road was blocked for some time, the traffic in Millers Road was diverted.
Speaking on the issue, Comrade Mahendran, Ex MLA, CPIM said that in spite of repeated protests, the Central Government refused to engage with the Central Trade Unions to resolve these issues meaningfully.
Some workers talked to Thozhilalar Koodam about the issues at their own sites and the demands for which they were protesting.
Central Warehouse Corporation, Virugambakkam – They have been working as contract workers, some of them for past 40 years. They are affiliated to CITU. Recently Amazon has been given space for warehousing here and over 135 contract workers have been unemployed because of this. As they struggle for permanent employment, the Corporation Officials have given them a brush off, saying that the move is from Central Government and that there is nothing they can do. There is no support from permanent workers. We have left 10 workers at gate so that no one else will get into warehouse for working today and other workers came to participate in September 2nd strike.
TK Engineering, Korattur – There are over 14 workers in the company who have worked for over 25 years. The workers are registered with AICCTU. They have given strike notice and 8 out of 14 people are participating in the strike. They are fighting for minimum wage of Rs 18000 and against price rise. They are earning a wage of Rs 9800. Their wages for the day will be cut.
Purasaiwalkam BSNL Employee – The unions are fighting against price rise which affects all the common people. There are issues of bonus and wage revision for contract workers in BSNL. BSNL has been contractualizing low level workers such as line men, maintenance etc. These workers are paid absolutely low wage of Rs 4000 to Rs 7000. Most of the BSNL employees are absent in the protest and are of middle class mentality. The union leadership is retired employees who have no understanding of the issues of contract workers and are unable to make demands for the working class. I am not in favor of such one day protest even though I have come to participate. It is everyday struggles that matter.
Thiruvotriyur Model Age Metal Workers – There are over 40 permanent workers in the union affiliated to CITU and are participating in the strike. Rest of the 30 contract workers are working today. Our wage will be cut.
Ambattur TI DC India – There are over 600 workers in the factory and all of us are in AICCTU union. We have issued strike notice and the company is closed today and all three shifts are not working. We chose to participate at sites near our homes. So workers are participating in Ambatture, Purasaiwakkam, Thiruvallur and Thiruvotriyur. We are asking that new pension scheme is repealed and for minimum wage of Rs 20000.
Security Worker, Oragadam – I am an Adhi Dravidar and have registered in employment exchange for last 15 years. Even though my mother was a sweeper in Central Government, I am yet to get any permanent employment with Government. I work as a security worker. Lots of parties come and go but our lives do not change. The media is only interested in covering issues of rich people and will not take the trouble to talk to us and expose our realities.