Labour

The Life of Labour: Nationwide Strike of ‘Scheme Workers’, Bridgestone Takes Back Suspended Workers

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Illustration by Aliza Bakht

Illustration by Aliza Bakht

Central trade unions call for a nationwide strike of all ‘scheme workers’

On January 17, 2018, workers who are a part of government schemes will strike and demonstrate at district headquarters across the country. Scheme workers include more than 60 lakh workers in Anganwadi, mini-Anganwadis, Integrated Child Development Services Scheme, Mid-Day Meal Scheme, National Health Mission, National Rural Livelihoods Mission, National Child Labour Project, Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan and Small Savings Schemes. The workers have multiple demands including regularisation as per the 45th Indian Labour Conference, increased commitment to the aforementioned schemes as well as a rollback of privatisation of basic government services.

 while cleaning tank in Coimbatore jewellery unit

The three workers, Gowrishankar, Ezhumalai and Suriyakumar, “went to the workshop late on Thursday night to clean the 10,000-litre tank that stored wastewater and chemicals”, according to The Hindu. When the police arrived at the scene, they were on the road in front of the building. The tank was in the basement. Two were dead, one died on the way to the hospital. It’s unclear who made the rescue call and how the three men were taken out of the tank and reached the road. An FIR has been filed but manual scavenging isn’t being considered because the tank wasn’t a septic tank, as per comments in the same article.

Sanitation workers win demands from Andhra government after four days

From December 18 to 22, sanitation workers across Andhra Pradesh were on strike under the banner of the A.P. Municipal Workers and Employees Federation. Venkat Reddy, state president of the federation, told The Hindu that “of the 110 municipalities that have 40,000 workers, 35,000 in 85 municipalities are on strike.” According to Newsclick, their main demands were “withdrawal of G.O. 279, increase in minimum wages, increase in engineering workers’ wages as par with skilled and semi-skilled workers, regularisation of the positions of contractual and outsourced workers, assurance of General Providential Fund (GPF), health cards for permanent workers.” After four days, the strike was withdrawn as the government acceded to some of their demands including a raise in the minimum wage. But the controversial GO 279 will not be repealed.

Bridgestone takes back suspended workers after two years

The 46 workers that were suspended by Bridgestone in Gurugram more than two years ago for unionising will be taken back by the company. But the workers still haven’t formed a union, according to TOI. “We are happy that the workers will now get their jobs back. It will be a major motivation for many other workers fighting similar battles. Ramesh Ahuja, the labour department official who helped in the negotiations, had also been responsible for sorting out a similar issue at Bellsonica Auto Components,” said Anil Pawar from the All India Trade Union Congress.

Women bank employees come together for all-India convention

Women Delegates working in banks of various states including Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh, West Bengal, Jharkhand, Odisha, Tripura and other states participated in the Annual National Bank Employees Federation of India (BEFI) Women’s convention held in Chennai on December 17 and 18. The various reports and speeches by delegates covered issues of women’s participation in social struggles, trade unionism and for collectively fighting for issues of women in the banking sector. Thozhilalar Koodam reports that sexual harassment at the workplace was a major issue: “A harrowing incident was shared by a comrade, who had joined as sub-staff and was promoted to clerk after 13 years of service. Since her promotion, she has been facing public humiliation from her manager, who has slapped and beaten her in front of customers and other workers. After she complained to the sexual harassment complaints committee and her allegations were proven with CCTV cameras, the committee recommended action against the manager. However, since then, she has been facing threats for which there has been no recourse. According to Comrade Kalyani, implementation and functioning of sexual harassment complaints committee as per the Act is still absent in the banking sector.”

International news

German pilots conduct the first-ever strike at Ryanair

The Local reports that, “Ryanair last week took the unprecedented step of offering to finally recognise unions after crew in Germany, Ireland, Britain, Italy, Spain and Portugal threatened walkouts in long-running rows over pay and conditions.” While the move initially prompted unions to call off their strike plans, the powerful Cockpit Union in Germany launched a warning strike after the first round of talks with Ryanair broke down this week. The strike saw delays but no cancellations as all flights eventually took off.

Argentina: Ex-Ford executives on trial for aiding 1970s dictatorship torture

“According to the prosecution, they provided names, ID numbers, pictures and home addresses to military officials who then abducted 24 factory employees and union members. The victims were allegedly subjected to hours of torture, electric shocks and interrogation on the factory premises in the suburb of General Pacheco before being hauled off to military prisons.” Read more here.

A Pan-American students’ movement is being throttled by elite private universities

The Wire reported on the latest updates in the struggles of graduate students in Columbia University and other Ivy League institutions to unionise and bargain collectively with the management. It’s not looking very good. So far, despite a number of public and state universities like Universities of Washington, California, Illinois, Michigan, Connecticut and City University of New York already having unions, private universities are arguing that Teaching Assistants and Research Assistants aren’t really ‘workers’ at all and have no right to unionise. “Even after two letters from Sanders and five other senators, a national outcry and 32,000 signatories on a national petition urging Columbia to drop its objections, the university has still not budged.” Even within the campus, 80% of graduate students support unionisation.

Weekend reading

  • How tough is it to change a culture of harassment? Ask women at Ford: The New York Times takes a deep dive into the past and present of sexual misconduct investigation at two Ford manufacturing plants in Chicago. “Their story reveals the stubborn persistence of harassment in an industry once the exclusive preserve of men, where abuses can be especially brazen. For the Ford women, the harassment has endured even though they work for a multinational corporation with a professional human resources operation, even though they are members of one of the country’s most powerful unions, even though a federal agency and then a federal judge sided with them, and even after independent monitors policed the factory floors for several years.”

 

  • European Trade Union Institute or ETUI releases an annual “state of play” report on social policies in the EU. This year’s report covers “labour market determinants of Brexit, EU responses to the refugee crisis and the public consultation preceding the publication of the European Pillar of Social Rights” as well as analysis of the ‘day-to-day’ policies in a number of social policy areas during the past one year.

 

  • Newsclick profiles Binay Dineshwar Dehri, a 45-year-old Mal Pahari Adivasi peasant, who came from Jharkhand to participate in the Kisan Mukti Sansad as a part of their initiative to understand the lives of farmers in the country.

 

  • PARI, as always, has been publishing fascinating stories from rural India. Priti David writes about the women potters of the Kota people in the Nilgiris.