The world is fighting the grave situation arising out of COVID-19 pandemic. In India, as with the rest of the world, workers who deliver public services including health, energy, water, local municipal services, emergency services are at the frontline.
The government of India declared a lockdown for about 50 days till now, to effectively tackle the health emergency. The physical mobility of the workers has been hampered because of the lockdown and most of the public service workers are busy fighting the pandemic.
The working people have been suffering loss of jobs, loss of wages, reduced wages, and eviction from residences etc., which is taking a toll on their mental health. Their families are also suffering. Health workers are exposed to extreme stress and pressure and risking their health treating infected patients.
Yet despite the sacrifices of workers, the government of India is using the shelter of the pandemic to attack the working class and common people of the country who are already in deep distress in the midst of the lockdown. The wages and conditions of all workers are now under attack. Trade union rights are being threatened.
The government of Madhya Pradesh has illegally increased working hours, from 8 to 12 hrs a day, and also wants to suspend labour laws for a period of 1200 days
The government of Uttar Pradesh (UP) has brought a draconian ordinance titled “Uttar Pradesh Temporary Exemption for certain labour laws ordinance 2020” under the guise of facilitating economic activities. With one strike 38 labour laws are made defunct for a period of 1000 days.
The government of Madhya Pradesh (MP) has also taken this illegal decision of increasing working hours of workers, from 8 hrs to 12 hrs a day, and also wants to suspend several labour laws for a period of 1200 days. Some other state governments are also actively preparing the take the same route.
These actions of the governments not only facilitate more brutal exploitation of workers without their rights for collective bargaining, dispute over proper wages, safety at the workplace and social security etc., but will also render women and youth more vulnerable for further exploitation. This will lead to PROFIT OVER PEOPLE and directly affecting the QUALITY PUBLIC SERVICES by putting the public workers in a disadvantageous position.
Migrant labourers, with no secure work, no social protection and no livelihoods are returning to their native places, sometimes by walking for hundreds of kilometres and even losing their lives en-route. The government, by taking advantage of the prolonged lockdown and limitations on the physical movement/gathering of people, is targeting the hard earned rights of the workers and the trade unions by taking steps towards abrogation of labour rights. Some of the state governments are taking such anti-worker and anti-people autocratic measures and many other state governments are being made to follow the same path to the detriment of the rights and livelihood of workers.
The Joint Platform of Central Trade unions in their meeting held on 14th May 2020 took note of the critical situation of the working people in the country during the lockdown period and decided to enhance united actions to meet the challenges.
The Central Trade Unions have sent a joint representation to ILO with regard to the violations being committed by the government of India on labour standards and human rights thereby undermining various ILO conventions. Some state governments are amending the Factories, Act, Contract Labour Act etc., for a period of 3 years and revising the working hours from 8 to 12 hours a day.
The Corporatization of the Ordinance factories, Power sector reforms, de-municipalization, are the outcomes of the recent measures being taken by the government. The government health workers are the biggest support to the government in fighting the covid-19 pandemic, but the support being extended by the government (in the form of support coming from International Financial Institutions is instead being directed to private, for profit health companies.
The trade union movement cannot be a silent spectator when decades of labour rights are being shredded. All the unions have resolved to unite and fight back, with a determination to defeat the anti-worker and anti-people policies being pursued by the government.
All the Central Trade Unions and also Industrial Federations throughout the country will be holding a nationwide protest, including hunger strike, on 22.05.2020. The affiliates of PSI are joining this agitation and will continue our collective struggle until we have success.
Titular Member South Asia