Thursday, June 19, 2014

India - workers struggle

Delhi: Protest against labour reforms proposed by Rajasthan govt, June 18

against the labour reforms proposed by the Rajasthan Government
The recent labour reforms introduced in Rajasthan seek to amend three crucial labour legislations – the Industrial Disputes Act, Contract Labour (Abolition and Regulation) Act and the Factories Act. Although the purported purpose of these reforms is to “create jobs”, in actuality what is sought is greater flexibility of labour markets and laws conducive to the easy flow of capital, ensuring for the corporate class a license for unbridled exploitation of the work force.
For Raje, Shourie and most other right wing politicos in the country including the much loved new Prime Minister, the “way ahead” out of the mire of inflation and unemployment that the country is presently stuck in, is greater freedom to the corporates to use the labour and resources of the country as they wish.
What are we in for?
The implications of the reforms are wide ranging and would change the face of working people’s rights as we know them today.
Changes suggested to the Industrial Disputes Act include the cap on retrenchment being shifted from units employing 100 workers to those employing 300 workers. This would mean a much larger number of companies would no more require government permission before throwing out their entire workforce and shutting shop and leaving a place after they have earned as much profit as they wanted to. Further for the first time, there will be a time limit of three years for raising an industrial dispute which would again significantly restrict the capacity for employees to bring their grievances before the court. The modifications also make it tougher to register labour unions where now one needs 30% of the workforce to sign an application for registering a union as opposed to the present requirement of 10%.
As far as the Contract Labour (Abolition and Regulation) Act is concerned, the amendments raise the applicability of the Act to companies with more than 50 workers from the current 20 which would deny many basic rights to an increased section of the workforce.
In the Factories Act, currently applicable to premises with more than 10 workers with power supply and 20 without power supply, the amendments raise these numbers to 20 and 40 respectively, which would mean that a far greater number of people would no more be eligible for safeguards and benefits like respectable working conditions which set standards of cleanliness, ventilation, provision of proper drinking water, latrines etc, safety provisions prohibiting employment of very young people around dangerous machinery, setting standards for escape routes in case of emergencies, regulation for safe use of machinery etc and other welfare rights like the 8 hour working day, weekly and paid holidays and double remuneration for overtime etc.
These changes would directly translate into a widening of the unorganized sector, making employment ever more precarious and greatly curtailing the bargaining power of workers in a number of industries, It would make employers less answerable to those who work for them, while allowing them the benefit of greater economies of scale. This will also absolve the government from regulating conditions of employment and mediating in industrial disputes. While the experience of the workers movement across the country leaves no doubt about the collusion between the administration, the labour departments and the management of companies in the exploitation of workers, such amendments would significantly weaken the few grounds for struggle available today and formalize and normalize what operate as violations of the law.
In fact the real meaning of what’s happening in Rajasthan today is revealed in the NDA govt on the same day proposing similar reform at the centre. These are indeed the conditions of the “development” that Modi has been promising to the people – incentivizing investment by easing exploitation! This also goes to show that the labour reforms of Rajasthan are a sign of things to come in the future, with Modi’s promise of change heralding a flexible labour market and corporate-friendly reforms. This comes at a point when India seems to be competing with China to present it self as part of the industrial-manufacturing sector of a global economy that is based on the fulcrum of advanced capitalist nations such as the USA and the EU.
The neoliberal agenda that this is symptomatic of, is thus to be placed in the context of the extreme right wing trajectory of Indian politics presently. Keeping the context of the current global capitalist conjuncture in view, these labour reforms herald the neoliberal offensive of the new regime. While the corporates are clearly welcoming these moves, it is on us to see the truth in its face. We who toil day and night to put two square meals before our families, we who pay through our teeth for our education so that we may get a decent job someday, we who are the inheritors of the rights that our predecessors have won for us, and also their struggles, we who do not see people as mere fodder for the profit making of a few, we who believe that the way ahead is not what the corporates dictate but that which people require to live better, more fulfilling and secure lives.

Delhi: Report on the steel workers’ strike in Wazirpur Industrial Area

Warzipurstrike1received from Garam Rolla Mazdoor Ekta Samiti, Wazirpur Industrial Area
11 June 2014, New Delhi: Wazirpur workers from the hot rolling steel plants continue to strike work for the sixth day. It should be noted that despite there being a labour court adjoining the industrial area in Nimri colony, labour laws are being flouted openly here. In the Wazirpur Industrial area, there are about 600 factories for steel production. It is not uncommon for workers here to have their hands bruised or cut during work. They work in extremely inhuman conditions. This is how profits are being accumulated.
In Wazirpur itself is the office of Provident Fund. But hardly any worker receives the facility of Provident Fund. On 6th June, about 2000 workers rallied in the area and declared the beginning of their strike. Today, almost all steel line factories in Blocks A & B of the area remained shut. A peaceful rally was carried out, after which workers gathered in Raja Park for a meeting. About 1500 workers participated in this meeting.
Ambika, a worker and member of the Garam Rolla Mazdoor Ekta Samiti, addressed the meeting and said that the prices of basic commodities have risen. Though wages are hiked on papers, factory owners and contractors flout all labour laws. Workers slog for 12 hours every day for a monthly payment of Rs. 8000 only. Basic facilities of Provident Fund and ESI are not implemented. Labour Department is only playing the role of a silent spectator to the exploitation of workers. It is therefore that, the workers have decided that they will not remain silent anymore to this exploitation. That the workers will fight for their rights.
In order to weaken the strike, factory owners have registered a false FIR against the leaders of this protest. Sunny from Bigul Mazdoor Dasta remarked that Police, instead of favouring the factory owners, should first arrest the owners who are violating all norms. He also said that this strike is not just for the workers from hot roller steel plants, but also for the workers of cold roller steel plants, steel line, rickshaw pullers and others who are part of the industry in this area. This victory of this strike will result in improvement of conditions of all workers of this area. It will also be a guiding light for workers of other industries in other areas.
Raghuraj from the Garam Rolla Mazdoor Ekta Samiti, alerted workers of any rumours or of pimps, and called upon all of them to remain united.
The protest has received support from Karawal Nagar Mazdoor Union, Gurgaon Mazdoor Sangharsh Samiti, People’s Union for Democratic Rights and Professor Mahapatra from Delhi University. The cultural front of Bigul Mazdoor Dasta also presented some songs of struggle.
Towards the end, workers took an oath to strengthen the strike by continuing to do so till demands are met.

Inde : Emeute ouvrière à Kolkata

Une foule en colère d’environ 200 travailleurs indiens armés de barres de fer et de pierres s’en est prise hier au directeur de l’usine de jute Brook Nord, à Kolkata. Le directeur refusait aux ouvriers de travailler et d’être payé à horaire complet, il voulait également la fermer de l’usine pendant trois jours par semaine, et refusait de rencontrer les ouvriers. Ceux-ci ont pris son bureau d’assaut et l’ont battu à mort. Un garde de sécurité a été hospitalisé pour blessures reçue lors de l’émeute. Six travailleurs ont été arrêtés par la police.

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