The Life of Labour: IT Layoff Crisis Continues, Indefinite Strike by Chennai Transport Workers

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Transport workers in Chennai to go on indefinite strike from Monday

With no progress in the negotiations, 10 unions of transport workers in Tamil Nadu have called for an indefinite strike from May 15. The transport unions have a few basic demands, most of them revolving around the state government adequately budgeting and funding wages, and technical improvements in the sector. Thozhilalar Koodam reports that, “More than 23000 buses ply in Tamil Nadu transporting more than 1.5 crore passengers each day. Unions estimate that there are 1,40,000 workers including drivers, conductors, technical staff.” Many of the workers interviewed talked about an increase in working hours (due to traffic) and lack of adequate support from the government. Hopefully, this strike offers the space for stakeholders to have a conversation around the essential nature of public transport and its place in our list of priorities.

IT layoffs crisis continues; workers looking at labour departments and legal options

LiveMint reported that, “Information technology (IT) companies in India are in the midst of the industry’s largest retrenchment drive, with seven of the biggest IT firms planning to ask at least 56,000 engineers to leave this year … The companies include both Indian and multinational firms with a large footprint in India. The seven companies—Infosys Ltd, Wipro Ltd, Tech Mahindra Ltd, HCL Technologies Ltd, US-based Cognizant Technology Solutions Corp. and DXC Technology Co., and France-based Cap Gemini SA—and which together employ 1.24 million people, plan to let go of 4.5% of their workforce in 2017.” These retrenchments come partly due to automation and new technologies as well as Donald Trump’s protectionist policies in the US.

So far, the companies have been loathe to claim that these are lay-offs. Like CTS and others, the Infosys COO claimed that any retrenchments will be a part of the regular performance appraisals. This is scant solace for insecure employees and such large numbers imply that worries aren’t misplaced. Also, across the industry, pay revisions have been delayed.

“Trade unions have little relevance in a sector with double-digit attrition rate”, reports Economic Times. But Tamil Nadu has recognised the right of IT employees to unionise and the central government has stated that labour laws will apply to the sector. The Telangana Labour Department has called for meetings with CTS and the company has asked for two weeks to respond to their questions. In Tamil Nadu, the Forum of IT Employees (FITE) and NDLF IT employees wing are petitioning the government against CTS as well.

Unsurprisingly, ‘a researcher was surprised by what he learned about India’s sex workers’

In an article on NPR, a researcher highlights his complete lack of knowledge going into a study on sex workers in India. He speaks to two groups of sex workers, one group living in a rescue and rehabilitation centre, and another group of women from the Perna community who have been sex workers by tradition ever since the Criminal Tribes Act of 1871.

The first group of women, he writes, “unlike those in child trafficking, …are in their mid-30s when they become sex workers. For these women, being held at an NGO for their “own protection” was not particularly appreciated. But most of them would not have the option to leave until their court hearing to determine if they were trafficked or being held against their will.”

The Prerna women “believed that sex work was their duty and tradition. But some younger Perna women have come to question the fairness of this idea, given that most men in the community did not work and squandered money on alcohol and gambling”.

It seems that when the Western press writes about India or other developing countries, ignorance and lack of preparedness can be the peg for an essay.

Workers take over sick tea estate in West Bengal

Having lost over 6 crores of their wages and social security funds to the last owner, facing starvation, 1200 workers of the Bundapani Tea Gardens in West Bengal have formed a cooperative to take over the running of the 120 year old tea estate.

Report on police violence against Bangalore garment workers

The People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) and Women Against Sexual Violence and State Repression (WSS) Karnataka, have now released a joint fact-finding report on large-scale police excesses during last year’s strikes by garment workers. The strikes involved more than 20,000 workers, most of whom were women fighting against the government’s proposal to change the rules around the taxation and withdrawal of provident fund. The report states that, “While this protest has been lauded across the country as a victory for workers’ rights, especially for the distinctive role played by women workers, the state machinery has responded with repression and violence. Workers and passers-by were assaulted brutally during the protest, and many were subsequently arrested on trumped-up charges, including attempt to murder.”

Rohini Mohan continues her in-depth reporting of the garment industry of Bangalore at Scroll: “Locals have become too aware of their rights – there are questions, disruptions, unions,” said a human resources manager for a major exporter. “Non-local Odia, Assamese speaking migrants can’t do this.” This is the third part of her four part series.

Other news:

DU teachers fight for meeting with Vice-Chancellor Tyagi: “This is completely unacceptable. In no university of repute can the head of the institution consistently refuse to meet the elected representatives of teachers. We will not leave till our office-bearers are able to meet the V-C,” said DUTA president Nandita Narain.

Taxi drivers take their case to Delhi High Court against cab aggregators: The Hindu reports that,“The Delhi High Court on Monday sought a response from the two cab aggregators and also the Centre and Delhi governments on a petition moved by drivers’ union demanding “freedom from exploitation” and benefits under labour laws.”

Indian Labour Conference to discuss universal social security coverage this year: “The central trade unions have proposed discussing universal social security cover for workers, compulsory recognition of trade unions in case of industrial disputes, abolition of contract labour system in perennial nature of jobs and enhancing the minimum wages in the ILC”, according to The Hindu.

Obituary: Comrade Kannan, one of the founding members of Karl Marx Library in Chennai, left intellectual and an activist for the cause of the visually challenged, passed away on April 25th in Chennai. Frontline has a detailed essay on his life and times.

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