Meet the Prime Minister and submit their demands
Over 2 lakh workers from various states including Punjab, Orissa, Bihar, Tamil Nadu and representing 11 central trade unions marched to the parliament on December 12th on various demands of the working class. The demands include fair minimum wage of not less than Rs 10000/- a month, Equal pay for equal work without discrimination, the need to scrap the new pension policy, the demand to end employment of workers under contract work, extension of social welfare benefits to all workers, the right to form trade unions and to curb inflation and price rise especially of food and essential commodities. Speaking on the demands CITU State Generate Secretary Sukumaran said ‘ These demands are basic and very much justified in the present context in which more and more firms are opting for contractualizing work, falling wages and employment and severe increase in price of essential items’.
AITUC National Secretary Waheeda Nizam said that ‘Since 2009, Central Trade Unions from all party affiliations have come together to forge an united struggle on the issues of the workers as the successive NDA and UPA Governments have turned anti worker and pro corporate.’ Since 2009, several protests have been organized by the Joint Committee of the Trade Unions. In Feb 20th and 21st of 2013, an all India General Strike saw lakhs of workers striking across India (http://tnlabour.in/?p=1188).
Commenting on the same, Waheeda said ‘Prior to the strike, the Prime Minister offered to talk but there was no meaningful approach in the talk’. Tamil Nadu CITU General Secretary ‘ The Prime Minister, addressing the Indian Labour Conference, said that the demands presented by the unions were just and no government can overlook them. He said that he will appoint an interministerial committee to negotiate with the unions and move forward on these issues. But the committee did not negotiate in spirit and tried to scuttle the process. We wrote to the PMO detailing the problems and asking him to intervene to take the process forward. But there has been no response from the government. So we decided to organize this national action so as to push the government to act and raise these issues in the parliament.’
The march to parliament is happening amidst declinining economic growth and increased anti labour policies including labour reforms and disinvestment of PSUs. According to Sukumaran, the percentage of wage in the overall expenditure of companies has been sliding down. This is being done through contractualizing permanent jobs and outsourcing them. This is also resulting in exploitation of the workers and lower wage rates. It effectively denies them recourse to labour laws as their employment is temporary.
AITUC National Secretary Waheeda Nizam commented that ‘Since 2009, the price of essential commodities has increased manifold 350% in some cases. However our demand of minimum wage Rs 10000 per month which has been the same is ignored’. Deploring the comment of the RBI Deputy Directory that while prices have increased, wages has also increased, she said ‘GDP and Per capita growth are not reflective of real growth. The lopsidal growth in IT sector was masking the inequality of per capita growth.’
Around 1100 workers from AITUC including domestic workers, construction workers, bank employees and 2400 workers from CITU attended the march from Tamil Nadu. A delegation from the march met with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh who has promised to implement the recommendations of Antony Committee on minimum wages and increase in pension for all workers to Rs 3000. Both Waheeda and Sukumaran condemned the black out of the news by mainstream media. Sukumaran said ‘The media is in the hands of corparates today. Large companies own most of the media channels. They do what they are supposed to do for their bosses. They suppress information about our struggles’. Both the leaders said that the struggle reflects the real issues of the working class and will have an impact on the forthcoming election inspite of the media deflecting the issues of workers.