January 03, 2021

Demand to Repeal Labour Codes Grows Louder

Ronak Chhabra

A “NATIONAL PROTEST DAY” was observed at multiple workplaces across the country on December 30, primarily to say that the “working class will not let the peasantry fail.”

The protest day, called for by the Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU), saw demonstrations by workers – both, organised and unorganised – employed in various sectors at their places of employment. Public meetings and rallies were organised as part of the programme as well.

While reiterating the demands of the protesting farmers, the workers also pressed the centre to repeal the newly-passed labour codes – Code on Wages, Code on Occupational Safety, Health and Working Conditions, Code on Industrial Relations, and Code on Social Security.

Subsuming about 25 existing laws, the process of codification of the labour laws has been flayed by the union for relaxing regulations to benefit employers.

It has been more than a month now since thousands of agitating farmers, led by multiple groups, are at the outskirts of the national capital blocking five carriageways that lead to the city in protest against the three Farm Laws.

Over the period, the agitation, which has demanded that the contentious laws be scrapped, along with a proposed amendment to the electricity law, managed to secure support from the trade unions, which traditionally represent workers’ interests.

Tapan Sen, general secretary, CITU said that repealing of the three farm acts was one of the major demands of the joint trade movement from the “very start”. It was a demand which was also raised during the last nationwide general strike on November 26 this year.

“The working organisations have always remained in solidarity with the protesting farmers’ groups. But this solidarity needs to be taken up to a next level,” Sen said, while referring to the set of independent actions that are being planned by the trade union for the days to come in a bid to “raise the temperature against the Modi government.”

The central trade union is planning to court mass arrest at a national level on January 7 and 8. It will be followed by workers joining farmers in their three-day mahapadav, starting from 23rd on the same month outside the governors’ houses in each state.

In addition,  the ten central trade unions were also planning on a prolonged general strike sometime soon in the next year.

“These independent actions of the workers will supplement the farmers’ protests which have given a new energy to the workers’ movements,” he said.

According to Sen, Wednesday’s(December 30) programme of staging protests at workplaces was an “initiating step” to “sensitise the workers” for a bigger course of action. He said the union received a “good response” with protests being staged in many industrial towns as well as collieries in states like Chattisgarh and Jharkhand (where the sectoral federation of the union is active), he added.

With independent action by the trade unions being planned largely in the shadow of farmers’ protests, their major demands, however, will remain the same. Along with the scrapping of the Farm Laws and labour codes, the unions are looking to hard-press the centre into accepting its demand of providing cash assistance of Rs 7,500 per month to all non-income taxpaying families and 10 kg of food grains each month to the needy.