The Life of Labour: Flash Strike By TN Transport Workers, Iceland Makes It Illegal To Pay Women Less

Latest news updates from the world of work.

Flash strike by Tamil Nadu transport workers as negotiations over wages fail

State transport workers in Tamil Nadu went on a flash strike starting on January 4 after the government refused to meet their demands for parity in wage increase with workers of other government departments and state enterprises. Negotiations had been taking place for over a year with the government failing to commit to equity in wages. The workers also pointed out that pensioners’ gratuity had not been paid for several years and social security (like PF, gratuity, welfare society, etc.) deductions from workers’ wages had not been credited to their respective bank accounts. They had gone on protest recently after which the Tamil Nadu government had initiated negotiations. The government was unwilling to raise their salaries on par with other government employees or to even guarantee a minimum entry wage of Rs.19500, and after the 22nd round of negotiations resulting in no action, the workers decided to stop work. The initial two days witnessed a near total strike with over 90% of buses not operating on their routes. Even after attempts by the government to force contract workers to act as substitutes, the strike remained successful.

On the evening of January 5, Chief Justice of the Madras High Court intervened once again, directing the workers to return to work and threatening contempt action if they failed to. More than a year ago, the Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court had passed a similar stay, claiming it would monitor negotiations. While the government had not budged forward, the intervention by the High Court yet again titled the scales against the workers.

But support from other unions, including IT workers, poured in for the transport workers.

Ola and Uber drivers in Chennai protest against pricing and regulation

Taxi drivers in Chennai employed by Ola, Uber and Fast Track struck work in protest for a day on January 3 against ‘unfair employment practices’ by the cab aggregators as well as state regulations that curtail their work. The tension between cab drivers and aggregators has been simmering over time. The frequent changes in fare rates, a high percentage of deductions and flawed incentive mechanisms were being challenged by cab drivers, who have finally joined forces against these measures. They demand a fixed, fair price for every kilometre of commute, restrictions on work hours to be relaxed and incentive schemes rationalised. The success of their strike action was visible in long wait times on Ola and Uber. Ola even sent messages asking customers to use their Auto service. Uber cashed in on the strike using surge pricing.

Bathinda thermal plant workers on strike

Contract workers at Guru Nanak Dev Thermal Power Plant in Bathinda have been on strike for the past week demanding regularisation and equal wage. The workers are protesting at the District Administrative Office. The farmers’ unions have lent support to the struggle providing material aid, from food to quilts. This has allowed the workers to continue the strike action even under the extreme cold weather.

Pricol workers launch signature campaign to petition Chief Justice of India

Pricol workers have launched a signature campaign to petition the Chief Justice of India to admit the appeal by two Pricol workers convicted of murdering a Human Resources Vice President of the company in 2009. The prosecution had charged 27 workers with conspiracy charges, and the trial court acquitted 19 for lack of evidence. The High Court that heard the appeal had found serious gaps in the prosecution case including that the FIR had allegedly been fabricated and altered. It acquitted a further 6 workers but convicted two workers for life imprisonment. For more details about the case, refer to this article by Madhumita Dutta in The Wire and this one in The Hindu. The Supreme Court rejected admission of the appeal by the workers while entertaining the appeal by the company against the High Court verdict. The workers have launched this petition campaign in order to garner support from workers to get justice for the ‘Pricol Two’.

Indian economy continues to grapple with low growth

Latest data from Central Statistics Organisation estimates that 2017-18 will see the lowest growth rate in GDP in the past four years. It has pegged the growth rate at 6.5% as against last year’s growth of 7.1%. This indicates the fear of economists, including the former PM, that the economy is not able to recover from the shock of demonetisation and GST. The fall in growth has a significant adverse impact on workers with decreasing jobs and incomes. The CMIE data on investments reveals both public and private investment has fallen sharply to the lowest levels in 13 years. While the article is in favour of increasing tax sops and labour reforms to push investment, it fails to recognise that government policies which protect the interests of international finance capital by keeping fiscal deficit low even in such times are one of the primary causes of this slump.

Other news

Verizon employees file a complaint against the company: Three former Verizon employees have filed a case against the company in Hyderabad for using bouncers to force them to resign.

TN accounts for 45% of manual scavenger deaths in India: As per data revealed by the Union Minister of Housing and Urban Affairs, Hardeep Singh Puri, in the Rajya Sabha, Tamil Nadu has the highest number of deaths due to manual scavenging. But while this is a damning indictment of the state, this data is far from complete. The organisation Safai Karamchari Andolan insists that the absolute numbers are much, much higher in TN as well as other states.

Trade union school started in Delhi by CITU: A three-storeyed building, christened P. Ramamurti Bhawan, that will act as a school to provide political education to the union cadre, was officially opened on December 15 in Delhi.

International news

Iceland makes it illegal to pay women less than men at work

Iceland has become the first country in the world to legislate equal pay between men and women. It is now illegal to pay women less than men. As Al Jazeera reports, “The Icelandic government plans to completely eradicate the wage gap by 2020.”

What’s behind the protests in Iran?

Trade unions in Iran exist despite massive structural obstacles. There have recently been large street protests in the country by workers. This article by Owen Tudor breaks the entire series of events down, including a timeline of events, as well as a big picture look at the labour rights situation in Iran.

Modern capitalism has opened a new front for worker action in logistics

“Enormous logistical clusters of transport, warehouses, ICT networks and intermodal facilities have sprung up…These clusters look highly vulnerable to worker disruption. A strike in a key warehouse or supplier could close production up and down a supply chain.” Read more here.

Join The Discussion