Delhi: Workers’ Strike Leaves an Imprint
A SUCCESSFUL workers’ strike took place in Delhi on November 25. The call was given by the trade unions and CITU played an important role in effective implementation.
Around seven lakh workers of Delhi, Ghaziabad and Gautam Buddha Nagar participated in the one-day strike call by Delhi units of central trade unions and independent industrial organisations. The working class through this strike action has pressed upon the central and state governments to accept its 11-point demand charter. Workers raised slogans in the strike demanding that the central government reverse its anti-worker, anti-peasant policies and adopt policies for the welfare of the people and the nation.
Workers of Delhi-NCR demanded that the four labour codes be repealed, fix term employment and hire and fire policy be done away with, minimum wages be implemented and further, minimum wages be increased to Rs 26,000 keeping in mind the high price rise, Rs 7500 monthly financial assistance to workers unemployed in Corona time, adequate financial assistance and pension of Rs 8,000 monthly to those workers who have lost their lives in Corona, put an end to wage cut and neglect of labour laws.
The strike was successful in almost all the industrial areas of Delhi NCR. Workers picketed at numerous places, took out processions, public meetings and blocked traffic. Workers took out marches in Noida sector-8, 11, 37, Noida phase 1 and Udyog Kendra, Mani Tau, Anmol Industries; and gave memorandums to Noida, Greater Noida and Gautam Buddha Nagar administrations after organising public meetings.
More than 2,000 workers participated in strike actions in Dasna, GT Road, Mohan Nagar, Modi Nagar, Meerut Road, Sahibabad Site 4, Hapur Road and Loni Tronica City Industrial areas of Ghaziabad.
Demonstrations were held and the road was blocked after organising public meetings in general hospital Mod, Friends Colony industrial area, Patparganj industrial area, Jhilmil industrial area and Sonia Vihar Pusta Road of east Delhi.
The strike was complete in Wazirpur, Rajasthani Udyog Nagar, Jahangirpuri, Badli and Bawana industrial areas of north Delhi. Workers participated in thousands, with a large participation of young workers.
Processions started from the CITU district office in Sitapuri and traffic was blocked at Dabri Mod, from where Hari Lal, Sonia, Satyawan Rathi and Anuj were detained by police for four hours.
Picketing was done near Tehkhand mod of Okhla industrial area in south Delhi and workers marched inside the industrial area. The strike was complete in Mangolpuri phase 1 and 2, Udyog Nagar and Nangloi industrial areas of north west Delhi. Hundreds of workers participated in marches with the big participation of women.
Loaders took out a procession from Naya Bazar which went through Ajmeri Gate, Kamla Market, Asaf Ali Road and Shraddhanand Marg. A public meeting was held in Ajmeri Gate, where a large number of street vendors, loading-unloading workers and shops' employees participated.
Export-import employees of Indira Gandhi International Airport supported the strike by wearing black badges and holding a public meeting at lunchtime. Similarly, more than 1,000 DBC employees in the three MCDs supported the strike by wearing badges at their workplaces.
Hundreds of DJB and NDMC employees, scheme workers, DBC workers, street vendors and palledars(load workers) participated in the demonstration held at parliament street. Hundreds of safai karmacharis(sanitation workers) participated in this programme and raised their strong protest against privatisation, contractualisation and outsourcing of garbage collection and treatment. Demonstrators were addressed by AITUC vice president, Giri, CITU general secretary, Tapan Sen, R S Dagar from UTUC, Rajendra from HMS, Harish Tyagi from AIUTUC, Santosh Rai from AICCTU, Lata from Sewa, Ashok Agyani from CITU, Santosh from MEC and Narendra from ICTU. Speakers warned that if the government does not heed the demands then the struggle will be intensified in the coming days.
CAMPAIGN FOR THE STRIKE
In the month of November, there is not a single industrial area or worker's colony of Delhi where the call of the strike has not reached. From leaflets and posters, the strike became a talking point among common workers.
While on one hand, the price of petrol-diesel, LPG cylinder, onion-tomato, vegetables-milk and all other items of daily use have increased by 40-50 per cent, the wages of workers instead of increasing has gone down by 20-30 per cent due to retrenchment, wage cuts and unemployment. It has become impossible for working sections to survive in this situation.
SITUATION OF MINIMUM WAGES
Minimum wages in Delhi have been increased recently and now the minimum wage for the helpers is Rs 16,064. Actually, showing these 156 rupees increase in DA as a relief to the workers is nothing but a cruel joke. Prices of most of the items of daily use have increased by 40-50 per cent (while those of some items doubled!), and in such a situation what relief can a less than one per cent increase in D.A. provide? This is clearly an act of sprinkling salt on the wounds of the workers.
The most important thing is that 95 per cent of workers in Delhi are not getting the minimum wage. In many of the factories and establishments, wage cuts up to 20-30 per cent has been made in the name of the pandemic. Keeping all the labour laws at stake, owners are making workers’ work for as low as Rs 8,000 per month for 10-12 hours daily (while women workers are working for Rs 5,000).
This is happening in the regime of anti-corruption crusader Kejriwal. Such a situation exists because the labour department has been paralysed through a systematic policy offensive. In spite of the increase in the number of workers and trades, the number of labour officers and inspectors has reduced instead of increasing. This has led to a situation where the enforcement department responsible for the implementation of pro-worker laws has become weakened. Owners no longer fear the labour laws and they have effectively been given the license to loot worker's labour.
In the above-mentioned situation of extreme hardships on workers-employees, the continued insensitivity of the government towards the demands raised has forced the trade unions to go for strike action. Workers are exploited, but they by no means are helpless. This is the reason why the working class asserted strongly and held a massive strike action on November 25th.
DEMAND OF THE TRADE UNIONS
One of the main demands of this strike is the formation of a wage revision board ( which is mandated every five years as per the law) keeping in mind the high inflation, so that new minimum wages may be formulated keeping the current market prices in consideration. Based on the fixed regulations minimum wage of Rs 26,000 be notified keeping in mind the current inflation.
· Strictly implement the notified minimum wages of Rs 16,064 in all factories, shops and establishments. Halt the increasing inflation.
· Central government must roll back the four labour codes. No to policy of fixed-term employment, hire and fire and attempts to increase working hours. No free hand to owners and contractors. Delhi government must not implement the four labour codes passed by the centre.
· Provide financial assistance of Rs 7,500 per month to all workers of organised and unorganised sectors, who have lost jobs due to Covid. Give status of "worker" to the domestic workers and home-based workers.
· Provide pension and financial assistance to the families who have lost their breadwinners due to Covid.
· Put an end to retrenchment, lockouts, violation of labour laws and corruption in the labour department. Ensure timebound disposal of all cases and claims. Ensure workplace safety.
· Provide ration cards to allow workers and provide all edible items at cheap prices through the ration shops. Provide free health facilities to workers. Provide affordable housing for the workers, as well as, water, electricity and other utilities.
· Ensure timely registration of all unorganised sector workers including the migrant workers. Form the social security board for unorganised sector workers. Fully implement the supreme court judgement of June 29, 2021. Make the registration of contractors and firms compulsory.
· Give permanent status to all contractual workers engaged in work of perennial nature and provide all facilities which are availed by permanent government employees.
· Register all the construction workers and provide all the benefits. Ensure disposal of all pending claims within the next one month.
· Provide minimum wages and social security to ASHA, anganwadi and mid-day meal workers. Declare them as government employees.
· Roll back the policies of monetisation-privatisation, three farm laws and the electricity amendment bill 2020.