Labour

The Life of Labour: ‘Free the Pricol Two’ Campaign Launched, 2018 Likely To Be Worse For IT Workers

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Illustration by Aliza Bakht

Illustration by Aliza Bakht

After a disastrous 2017, can IT workers look for a better year ahead?

Over 56,000 IT employees have been retrenched in the last year alone. The present rate of retrenchment outpaces even the crisis of 2008. IT behemoths like TCS and Infosys have reduced their workforce for the first time in over a decade. Unlike the earlier periods, the present slowdown in recruitment and expansion is not happening due to a shock or crisis in the sector but as a consequence of far-reaching technological changes that will redefine the industry as a whole. This article by Ananya Bhattacharya analyses the various trends — political, economic and technological that are reshaping the industry. With automation threatening high volume, low skilled IT jobs, the writer foresees over a third of the jobs in the IT sector vanishing by 2022. It concludes that even though 2017 was bad for the IT worker, the coming years might be worse.

Toiling like slaves: Punjabi migrant workers in Italy

We often hear about the hard work and success stories of Punjabi migrants to Europe and US. But these narratives do not reveal the harsher side of this story. This article in The Guardian brings to the fore the painful reality of migrant workers even in developed economies. The report suggests that tens of thousands of Indian migrants, especially from Punjab, have sought work in southern Italy’s farms. There, lacking any social support, they are subjected to low pay, extreme labour, abusive employers and degenerative health conditions. Doctors have recounted the extensive addiction among migrant workers to opioids and other painkillers as a way to overcome the inhuman working conditions.

The report also points to the entrenched gangster rule that controls the trade in products as well as labour. This allows farms to employ workers well below legal wage limits. Attempts by workers to access the judicial system has only meant a loss of jobs, threats to their life and a long wait for justice. The conditions of work led to widespread strikes in 2016, forcing the government to enact laws to check the growing dominance of gangsters. The police have accepted the lack of progress in checking these crimes.

Community forest rights still a dream in many Adivasi-dominated areas in and around Maharashtra

Poorvi Kulkarni writes in The Wire about how “500 members of gram sabhas from across Adivasi belts of Maharashtra and some other states” came together to share their experiences of managing forests at a two-day national convention of gram sabhas organised on December 25 and 26, 2017 aimed at “initiating the process of building solidarities between gram sabhas of different regions”. A number of people spoke up about being denied both individual and community rights to their land as well as police intimidation and other threats.

Trade unions in Tamil Nadu launch campaign for Justice for Pricol Workers at AICCTU state convention

Left trade unions launched a campaign, ‘Free the Pricol Two’, at the state level convention of the All India Central Council of Trade Unions in Chennai. The Supreme Court has rejected, at the entry stage, the appeal by two of the Pricol workers against their conviction. Seven years ago, the Vice President of HR was murdered in his cabin. 27 workers were charged by the prosecution on charges of murder and conspiracy. Workers and unions have viewed the investigation as a way to curb trade unionism and victimise workers. The trial court acquitted 19 accused, including the union leaders. Later, the High Court acquitted a further 6. The Supreme Court’s dismissal of their appeal while its acceptance of the appeal by the company has brought the unions together to demand a fair trial and for the ending of the assault on workers’ rights by the state through coercive mechanisms. Further, the trade unions also discussed the need for collective strategies to confront the present ‘anti-labour policies’ of the state and central governments.

Maritime unions to go on strike against disinvestment of Dredging Corporation of India

After the government approved of disinvestment of DCI, various labour organisations have protested the move, saying it’s against the interests of the country. They argue that it will lead to a rise in dredging costs for the Navy and various ports as well as put sensitive information in the hands of private players. “Since its inception in 1976, the DCI continues to serve Indian ports at low margins and also executes dredging contracts on behalf of the Indian Navy. The DCI is thus privy to vital and sensitive defence-related information. Privatising profit-making DCI is hence not in the interest of the nation’s interest,” Abdulgani Serang, General Secretary, NUSI, told PTI.

Coca-Cola workers protest shut down of Karnataka plant

The Hindustan Coca-Cola Beverages Workers Union and the employees of the plant in Koppal are demanding action against the company for shutting down operations. It seems the company didn’t follow official procedure. The workers approached the court but by the time the High Court gave its judgement, the operations had been shut down.

God’s own country needs migrant workers to celebrate Christmas

The Wire reports on how with migration out of Kerala seeming to have peaked and now on the decline, migrants from the rest of the country are moving to Kerala to plug labour shortages. S. Irudaya Rajan at the Centre for Development Studies, Thiruvananthapuram, has studied the changes in the migration pattern in Kerala over the last few decades. His 2016 Migration Survey has suggested that Kerala has the lowest birth rate in India and its migration-prone age group (comprising people in the age band of 20 and 34 years) is shrinking.

Central Provident Fund Commissioner promises a seamless PF system in 2018

In an interview with Live Mint, the commissioner of Central Provident Fund discussed the structural and technological reforms undertaken by the organisation to improve paperless service delivery to employees. Highlighting the gains in efficiency since centralisation of the PF system, he said that the Aadhar-seeded Unified Access Number (UAN) has allowed for significant improvement in paperless transactions, while also allowing employees to manage their accounts independent of the employer. The other reforms include the setting up of defaulter management mechanisms for early identification of defaulting employers and a system for easy withdrawal of savings by contributing employees. The recent thrust towards investing 15% of the contributions into high-risk equity investments was also discussed. With only a third of the 4.75 crore employees seeding their Aadhar numbers to their UAN, the process to go paperless is far from complete. The commissioner feels that the process can be completed soon and the fully digitized, a paperless system can be rolled out by August 15, 2018.

International news

Workers at Ford in Romania go on strike, defy trade union leaders

Romanian workers, as elsewhere around the world, are at the receiving end of reforms aimed at placating corporations. Recent changes to tax laws have increased workers’ tax burden to 37% in order to provide tax breaks to corporations. With wages not increasing to compensate for this tax rise, the workers are agitated. So, when workers at Ford auto plant at Cariova, Romania realised that the wage agreement between the union and the company would shrink their after-tax wage by nearly 20%, they defied their union leadership and have gone on strike. WSWS reports that over 1000 workers participated in the wildcat strike that grounded production to a halt. It claims that the strike is primarily against the union that has sold out their interests to the company and the state apparatus. These incidents reveal the growing disenchantment with the traditional unions that have succumbed to the established status quo and are failing to represent and lead the working class anymore.

Weekend reads/watch

Remembering the martyrs of Keezhavenmani on their 50th anniversary

“As night fell, on that day – 25th of December, the landlords surrounded the workers’ homes and began to shoot with guns. To escape the gunfire, 44 people, mainly women, children and elderly ran and took shelter in the hut of the villager Ramaiyya. The landlords’ goons locked them inside and set fire to the hut. They did not let a single person out and instead stoked the fire until every person inside was burnt alive. They were enraged not only because workers were demanding wage increment but mainly because the ‘lower caste’ questioned their authority and privilege of their caste.” Read more at Thozhilalar Koodam.

Sea of Tears (Kaneer Kadhal): Documentary on the missing fishermen of south Tamil Nadu

Cyclone Ockhi ravaged the southern coast of Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Lakshadweep in the first week of December. But the lack of coordinated effort by state agencies has created a disaster far worse than Ockhi. Even after a month, the fishing community is still awaiting the return of hundreds of fishermen who went missing after the cyclone. The plight of the community, the lack of warning and post-disaster rescue and the larger political implications are discussed in a Tamil documentary titled Kaneer Kadhal (Sea of Tears) that was released by Vinavu.com, a Tamil political news portal. Watch it here.