Trade unions plan May-22 nationwide protest against labor law suspension
To oppose the suspension of labor laws in some states, 10 central trade unions have decided to hold a nationwide protest on May 22. They have also decided to take the matter to the International Labor Organization (ILO). Recently, Uttar Pradesh controversially suspended major labor laws in the name of reviving economic activity amid the coronavirus lockdown. Other states are also following suit.
According to PTI, during a meeting on Thursday, the trade unions discussed the changes introduced in labor laws by some states. In a joint statement issued on Friday, 10 unions—INTUC, CITU, AITUC, HMS, AIUTUC, TUCC, SEWA, AICCTU, LPF, and UTUC—decided to observe a nationwide protest on May 22 in opposition of the "anti-worker and anti-people onslaughts of the government."
The unions took note of Uttar Pradesh's "draconian" ordinance suspending major labor laws to facilitate economic activities. With one stroke, 38 laws were made defunct in UP for 1,000 days, the unions' joint statement said. The statement also said that eight states—Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Haryana, Odisha, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Bihar, and Punjab—increased daily working hours from 8 to 12 in violation of the Factories Act.
The statement said that the trade unions have independently and unitedly made several representations to the Prime Minister and the Labor Minister with respect to the suspension of labor laws. They also addressed "rampant violations of the government's own directives/advisories in regard to the payment of full wages to workers" and "non-termination of employment." However, their efforts went in vain, they said.
According to The Indian Express, the statement noted, "These draconian measures are not only to facilitate more brutal and cruel exploitation of workers without their rights for collective bargaining, a dispute over proper wages, safety at workplace and guarantee of social security, etc., but also to throw them into conditions of slavery, in the interests of more profiteering despite the continuing economic slowdown."
The statement said, "All the announcements made by the government in regard to ration distribution, even meager cash transfer to women and senior citizens, etc., have failed at the ground level and did not reach the majority of the beneficiaries."
The national-level leaders of the 10 trade unions would also organize a day-long hunger strike on May 22 at Gandhi Samadhi, Rajghat, in Delhi. Simultaneous protests would be jointly organized in all states. The trade unions will also send a joint representation to ILO, addressing the "violations" by the Indian government "in regard to all the international commitments on labor standards and human rights."
The trade unions demand immediate relief to stranded workers to enable them to safely reach home, the availability of food to the stranded workers, universal coverage of ration distribution, cash transfer to all unorganized labor force (registered, unregistered, or self-employed), among others, PTI reported.
The RSS-backed Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh (BMS) has not officially joined the call for the May 22 protest. However, sources in the BMS told the Business Standard that its workers and sectoral outfits will participate in the agitation. The BMS had on Thursday announced its own three-phase nationwide protests from May 20 to 31 against the suspension of labor laws.