March 29, 2020

CITU Writes to the PM on Measures to Tackle Corona Crisis

Below we publish the letter written by the CITU to the prime minister on March 24.

THE Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU) and the entire trade union movement of the country urges upon your urgent intervention in certain crucial aspects of addressing the situation in the country since coronavirus pandemic, including its prevention and containment.

People in general are responding to the various measures so far announced by the government including the lockdowns in various states. However the government of India is yet to draw a comprehensive plan to meet the situation that is aggravating further.

We request you to expand testing facilities and ensure availability of testing kits from all authorised sources including those approved by the National Institute of Virology with appropriate and stringent supervision. It is also necessary to strengthen the countrywide public health network by ensuring testing facilities at least in all district hospitals, provision of adequate safety equipment including masks and other protective gear for the staff and provision of isolation beds and quarantine facilities. The private hospitals should be directed to provide free medical services in terms of testing, prevention and cure.

Large sections of workers, particularly in the unorganised sector comprising around 93 per cent of workers in the country, will be losing their incomes in the face of the unavoidable restrictions due to shutdowns. The government needs to ensure that their jobs and incomes are protected and also that they are provided with money to meet their immediate daily requirements. The MSME sector which employs large numbers of workers and which is already suffering from the economic slowdown should be supported by the government through concessional loans and moratorium on their existing loans.

Notwithstanding the appeals made by the governments regarding protection of livelihood and earnings of the workers affected by the preventive restrictions, shutdowns and lockdowns, situation at the ground level is altogether different. The entire burden of shutdown/ lockdown and reduction of production, services and other economic activities are being sought to be transferred on the working people. This is resulting in the loss of income and livelihood for the informal workers including migrant workers, contract, casual, temporary workers in both the public and private sectors, the domestic workers, vendors. Many private enterprises have announced cut in wages, unpaid forced leave, retrenchment etc. This means starvation, deprivation and destitution for the workers putting their survival and the survival of their family members at stake.

In such a situation, only appeal to the employers not to resort to retrenchment or not to deduct wages of their workers, will not suffice. A strong statutory as well as enforceable arrangement needs to be put in place by the government urgently to prevent loss of employment, livelihood and earnings of the working people.

Hence, CITU demands that the central government should announce a large-scale scheme to be implemented through the states to protect the livelihoods and provide income support to the most vulnerable.
We request the government to announce statutorily enforceable measures to be directly enforced by the governments at the centre and states, without further delay. These should, inter alia, include:
1. Protecting the livelihood and earnings of workers compelling the private business, along with the PSU management to ensure protection of jobs, earnings and social security benefits both for their regular workers as well as the contract and casual workers in the face of ongoing down-sizing and even shut-downs
2. Ensure transfer of Rs 5000 for the unorganised/informal sector workers aged up to 25 years and Rs 10000 to those above 25 years on a monthly basis through their bank/jan-dhan accounts
3. Increase in the pension for the EPS pensioners at the minimum level
4. Also the workers directly affected by coronavirus and forced to stay away from work should be granted paid leave by the employers.
5. No wage-cut, adjustment of leave etc should be allowed for shut-down or down-sizing
6. Free rations to informal sector workers with the huge stock of food grains at  government disposal
7. Strict action against hoarders who utilise the situation leading to price rise of essential commodities including food items, medicines, sanitisers etc
8. Separate arrangement should be made to supply mid-day-meal to the residence of the entitled students in view of the temporary closure of the schools. This will also save the jobs of the mid-day-meal workers besides benefiting the students.
9. Special safety arrangement to be ensured for health-workers including the ASHAs, second ANMS and other scheme workers in the health department, anganwadi employees etc engaged in providing health and other services in different ways.
10. Increase in remuneration of the ASHA and other scheme workers in health services on a monthly basis
11. Strengthen public sector pharmaceutical production entities for production of raw materials, testing kits and medicines including sanitisers and other implements.

We request you to respond to the above minimum demands of the working people with the necessary urgency and on priority basis.