Labour

The Life of Labour: 8 Transport Workers Killed in TN, National Policy For India’s Home-Based Workers

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Illustration by Aliza Bakht

Illustration by Aliza Bakht

Former HT press worker found dead in a protest tent outside the company’s Delhi office

Ravinder Singh, 56, was fired from Hindustan Times in 2004 along with 361 printing press workers, some of whom had worked there for more than 20 years. Singh and other members of the Hindustan Times Employees Union have been protesting outside the HT office ever since. The Caravan magazine’s report on the death reveals a deeply tragic tale. Singh seemed to have no family, a deteriorating mental condition and no place to sleep other than the tent. “Members of the union claimed that Singh was the latest among several workers who died after the termination of services, due to their economic impoverishment and an inability to pay for medical expenses”, reports Kedar Nagarajan. One union member put the number of dead at 24 and the number in bad health at 12.

Bangalore pourakarmikas get sexually harassed for demanding their salaries

Theja Ram reports for The News Minute, “A group of women who have been keeping Bengaluru clean hasn’t been paid their dues for three months now. When pourakarmikas (civic workers) of Bengaluru’s KR Puram area demanded their outstanding salaries, the contractor who is supposed to pay them decided to not just brazen it out – he went on to sexually harass them, abused them with casteist slurs, and even took his pants off in front of the workers.”

Need for a national policy to safeguard the rights of India’s home-based workers

On the occasion of International Home-Based Workers Day, Firoza Mehrotra of Homenet South Asia discusses the state of India’s informal and home-based workers. According to the NSSO, there were 37.4 million home-based workers in 2012, doing everything from beedi-rolling to tailoring to packaging. A large section of these workers are women and the article brings up their concerns as well as the need to think about housing, sanitation, etc.

Another incidence of manual scavenging recorded in Mangalore

Photos and videos captured by Nithin Kuthar of DYFI show two men clearing out what looks like a collapsed drain in the Bunder area of Mangalore city. When approached by TOI, the mayor of Mangalore denied the allegation, saying they were actually repairing a wall. The photos seem to clearly show them standing ankle deep in sewage, armed with nothing but a bucket.

8 transport workers killed in Tamil Nadu as roof of restroom collapses

8 workers of the Tamil Nadu State Transport Corporation died when the roof of a depot resting room collapsed on the sleeping workers. The incident happened in the early morning hours of Friday at Poraiyur, Nagapattinam. Three workers were rescued from the debris and are undergoing treatment. Transport Corporation workers went on state-wide vigils, condoling the deaths and demanding immediate action to prevent such accidents. The 75-year-old building had been in a state of dilapidation. The workers were working overtime to augment services for the festival season. The State Government has announced compensation to the kin of the dead and the injured workers.

Panel set up to revise minimum wages for tea workers in Assam

The labour welfare department of Assam has set up a minimum wages advisory board in a bid to fix the minimum wages of daily-wage labourers employed in the state’s tea gardens. This is a departure from the earlier practice, where minimum wages were decided on the basis of bilateral discussions between tea garden owners and a labour union, represented by the Congress-affiliated Assam Chah Majdoor Sangha. Although the state-mandated minimum daily wage for unskilled labourers in Assam is Rs. 250, the tea garden owners’ collective, the Consultative Committee of Planters Association, has so far strongly resisted any intervention on the government’s part to increase the minimum wage. The trade unions are also not confident as the BJP government has included BJP-led unions with little representation among tea workers while excluding left unions from the committee.

Maharashtra transport workers’ strike called off after Bombay High Court declares strike ‘illegal’

Nearly 1 lakh workers of the Maharashtra Transport Corporation had struck work early this week demanding a wage increase in line with the 7th pay commission recommendations. Though a 40-day notice was provided as per rules, the High Court of Bombay had declared the strike illegal on Thursday forcing the core committee to withdraw the strike. The Court has ordered the state government to appoint a committee to look into the issue.

18 years after retrenchment, workers yet to get their legal compensation

Over 350 workers of Florin D Shoes Private Ltd and UNISCo Shoes Pvt Ltd had been retrenched in 1998. The workers, primarily women from northern Tamil Nadu, had successfully challenged this action in the court. In 2010, the High Court of Madras had ordered the payment of compensation to the workers for the loss of their jobs. This was upheld by the apex court in 2013. The labour commissioner, on the basis of the order, had arrived at a compensation to the workers in 2016. This order has been challenged by the company yet again. In the ensuing 18 years, over 35 workers have died and many have given up on the case. The remaining workers went on a protest near the Chennai Collectorate demanding the intervention of the government to resolve the issue without any further delay.

Madhya Pradesh government announces it will regularise contract teachers

A government spokesperson told TOI, “Government has plans to recruit 40,000 teachers, but it decided that 25% of these would be reserved for contractual teachers. Those contractual teachers who have been working for three academic sessions can appear for the eligibility test.” While this is a welcome move for the atithi sikshaks (contractual teachers) of the Madhya Pradesh government high schools, the question is why teachers currently teaching in classrooms might fail an eligibility test.

Manesar factory accused of holding workers hostage to stop them from forming a union

SPM Autocomp Systems Private Limited, a manufacturer of auto parts in Manesar has been accused by its workers of harassing them, issuing threats against their families, holding the union leaders hostage, beating them up and forcing them to sign documents. The Hindu reports, “SPM’s owner Dharmender Batra claimed that the management officials had gone to the office-bearers houses only to request them to not form the union. “We are like a family. A union creates unnecessary friction between the workers and the management. So, we had gone to their families to request them to not indulge in all this,” said Mr. Batra. He, however, denied all allegations of beating and harassing the workers.” The factory workers decided to unionise after one of the company’s worker was killed in April this year after being caught in the conveyer belt while on duty.

Kochi administration organises mass contact programme with inter-state migrant workers

Over 1300 interstate migrant workers participated in a mass contact programme organised by the Kochi district administration. The event was organised in the wake of the recent scare campaign against migrants and also to improve grievance registration and redressal by the administration. The district collector and the state police chief participated in the proceedings. 32 counters were opened to receive and register complaints, get Aadhaar cards made and open bank accounts.

Tata Steel targets 20% women in workforce by 2020

According to PTI, “Tata Steel chief diversity officer Atrayee S Sanyal said the company has a target to have 20% women in its workforce by 2020, from the current level of 11%.” On one hand, this is a laudable move by a company in an industry that is far from being gender-balanced. On the other, is 20% really the best that can be hoped for? Would 17% be considered an honourable attempt with pats on the back all round? Also, it’s disappointing that the article (which is more of a press release) ends with Sanyal having to defend the move by assuring the reporter that they will not compromise on ‘merit’.

After another ‘mishap’, arms factory workers demand strict implementation of safety directives

200 workers staged a ‘tool down’ and over 500 workers marched to the general manager’s office after an explosion at the Arms Factory, Khadki left a worker, Uttam Chaudhary, seriously injured and missing two fingers. “In 2014, one young worker, identified as Tejas Mule, died in yet another explosion, with many getting injured in between. In 2015, one worker lost both eyes, became completely deaf and lost both hands. In June this year, two more were killed. When will this stop? Why doesn’t any supervisor get injured when they are supposed to supervise from close proximity? Because they are never close by. Only workers are at risk and left to die in a dangerous situation,” one officer told The Indian Express. The same officer said that when workers had previously staged a dharna to implement the General Safety Directives (GSD), disciplinary action was taken against them.

Weekend reading

Are we facing a Demographic Disaster? In the early years of this century, the Indian economy was poised for a major take off. A lot was discussed about the youthful population and the demographic dividend to be reaped through their labour. But with fewer jobs than predicted, the demographic ‘bulge’ of the working population is becoming a major crisis to resolve rather than a dividend to harvest. An article in Scroll by Devangshu Datta investigates the precipitous drop in employment generation using data from the telecom sector and the ominous signals of further job cuts in this context. It highlights that countries that reaped the benefits of the demographic dividend during their times were those that had invested heavily in public education much before the ‘bulge’ in population. The article argues that if the Indian policymakers fail to provide education and employment to the youth, we will end up with a demographic disaster.

Unquiet on the riverfront: Rahul Maganti writes for PARI on the displacement of Andhra fisher communities by riverside development (including a set of eighteen ghats) for the shimmering city of Amravati. “The cleared area stretched for 20 kilometers along the river, starting from the Ibrahimpatnam town near the Vijayawada-Hyderabad National Highway to the Prakasam Barrage. Chandrababu Naidu, the chief minister of Andhra Pradesh, spent at least Rs. 1,000 crores (according to newspaper reports) of public money on the festival event. A year after the festival, the ghats look deserted.” And with the Krishna’s water being contaminated upriver, most of the former fish workers now work for a daily wage.