The Life of Labour: 7th Pay Commission Recommendations Approved, EDMC Workers Strike

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Finance Minister Arun Jaitley receiving the report of Seventh Pay Commission from its Chairman Justice A K Mathur in New Delhi on Thursday. (PTI)

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley receiving the report of Seventh Pay Commission from its Chairman Justice A K Mathur in New Delhi on Thursday. (PTI)

In one week, eight transgender employees quit the Kochi metro

HT reports that, “In one week, of the 21 transgenders employed, eight have quit their job. The reason: Nobody is willing to rent out house/rooms to them. Sensing trouble, they said, they made many representations to Kochi’s mayor and the district collector but their pleas fell on deaf ears.”

Cabinet approves 7th pay commission recommendations

As you read this, the 7th Pay Commission will be in effect. The union cabinet approved the recommendations on Wednesday, which will mean the payment of higher house rent allowance and other benefits to 34 lakh government employees and 14 lakh pensioners.

EDMC safai workers strike to receive their salaries

Municipal safai workers were on strike again in Delhi this week. This time it was the turn of the East Delhi Municipal Corporation. Workers haven’t been paid salaries for two months and went on strike for four days before the Corporation agreed to their demands. As garbage piled up on the streets, the Essential Services Maintenance Act was invoked in what is now turning into a fairly predictable process. The Corporation claims to be under severe financial stress – a stress that will only increase with the 7th pay commission – but it isn’t clear why the lowest rung of staff have to be the ones that bear the brunt of fiscal mismanagement and the rivalry between the BJP and the AAP.

Speaking to DNA, Meena Devi, a sanitation worker, said “I have been working as a sanitation worker under EDMC for the last 25 years. But there was not a single time when I have received my full payment. They say that they deduct a certain amount from our salary because that would be used for our upliftment. But I can hardly see any upliftment in our condition.”

In Argentina, workers occupy a closing PepsiCo factory

“On June 20, 2017 PepsiCo announced the relocation of its snack production from Vicente Lopez in Buenos Aires to a factory in Mar del Plata, a city over 250 miles south of the Argentinian capital. 691 employees arrived to work to find a sign on the closed entrance announcing the relocation of the factory, in which only 155 of them would be offered jobs in the new location. In the following days, workers voted in committees to take over the plant, blocking the entrance to the factory and demanding their jobs instead of the compensation PepsiCo offered.” The multibillion dollar international beverage and food processing behemoth is said to be moving the factory to take advantage of the “less protection and security in Mar del Plata” to boost its profits.

Factory workers to lose jobs to automation  

In an article on how automation will effect factory workers more than IT workers, ET reports, “Early signs of jobs distress in factories are becoming visible. Textile major Raymond is planning to cut about 10,000 jobs in its manufacturing centres in the next three years, replacing them with robots and technology. The company employs nearly 30,000 staff in its 16 manufacturing plants in the country, which means it would offload a third of its workers in just three years.” In an earlier interview with ET from last year, Raymond CEO Sanjay Behl had said, “One robot could replace around 100 workers.” It remains unclear how much of this plan is already set in motion and what the effects are. But what is clear is that the Modi government’s ‘Make in India’ programme seems to have not taken into account the reality of the modern manufacturing process which employs fewer workers in production than ever before.

Wage Code and Factories (Amendment) Bill 2016 to be passed in the monsoon session of the parliament

The wage code will be the first of the promised four labour codes that will attempt to simplify labour legislation in the country. After failing to pass the code in the budget session as promised earlier, the government has declared a new deadline. Along with the wage code, the Factories (Amendment) Bill, 2016 might also be passed. Among other changes, this bill will increase overtime limits and in the words of Business Standard, “allow workers to work more and earn more.” What it fails to realise is that the amendment is more a tool of coercion than one of choice. Workers usually aren’t in a position to refuse the demands of threatening employers. The bill tacitly provides a legal cover for employers to squeeze more hours of work out of their labourers.

After all, not everyone can be GSTN chairman Navin Kumar who, putting robots and the notion of time to shame, claimed that he had been working 28 hours a day preparing for the GST rollout.

Weekend reading/viewing:

“Whether we win or lose our goals, the friends we find along the way are those we keep for ever.” Thus concludes a review of Pride (2014) in Thozhilalar Koodam condensing the central value of the British movie, which is based on real events. Appreciating the movie for its “lesson in history” on “the emerging solidarity between the queer community from London and a rural mining community in Wales amidst a major mining strike”, it explores the possibility of unlikely alliances between communities in their fight against a common oppressive socio-economic order. Expressing confidence that such alliances could transform a ‘nation’, it also highlight the relevance of this history to our present situation in India where the people are facing the combined violence of neoliberalism and cultural fundamentalism.

“My mother is a fearless women”: In Pari, Bhasha Singh speaks to a mother and two daughters, a family that lost their primary breadwinner in a manual scavenging incident, about the struggles of coping with the loss and fighting an apathetic state.

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