The Life of Labour: Win for Striking Nurses in Delhi, Bank Workers to Strike Against Cash Crunch

Latest news updates from the world of work.

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Win for striking nurses in Delhi, bad news in Zimbabwe

Over 370 nurses who are members of United Nurses Association (UNA) of Delhi’s Maharaja Agrasen Hospital struck work for 9 days, leading to an agreement which promises them “more than 20% pay increase for the lowest paid nurses (to meet the statutory requirement), compliance with the nurse to patient ratio, payments for additional night work and other allowances, and no victimisation of union leaders and striking members”, among other things, according to Public Services International. This comes after similar victory for nurses in Kerala as reported last week.

However, recent news from Zimbabwe has not been so uplifting as 16,000 nurses were apparently sacked for going on strike and not returning to work after the government’s ‘good faith’. Zimbabwe is heading towards its first election since the coup against Mugabe. The interim government sees the massive protests as “politically motivated”. The move will probably deter the teachers’ union that was also threatening to go on strike next month. The nurses’ union claims it will approach the courts for redressal.

GKN Driveline workers’ third day of a sit-in protest

TNLabour reports that 124 permanent workers at GKN Driveline at Oragadam, Tamil Nadu, have been on a sit-in protest since the morning of April 19 after 16 rounds of negotiations since 2016 have resulted in no progress towards a charter of demands the workers submitted. After they gave the company a strike notice in November 2017, workers say GKN has doubled down on them, having transferred 3 workers, fired one, and suspended one this year alone. The company has reportedly stopped food from reaching participating workers, because of which allegedly four workers have fainted.

The myth of appeasement

“In no state are Muslims better off than Hindu OBCs. More importantly, in most of the states, Muslims earn less than Hindu Dalits: Their per capita annual income represents 68 percent of that of the Dalits in Haryana, 69 percent in Gujarat, 79 percent in West Bengal, 82 percent in Kerala and 87 percent in Maharashtra. The few states where Muslims are better off than the Hindu Dalits are Karnataka (where they earn 101 percent of what the latter get), Bihar (115 percent) and UP (131 percent).”

Christophe Jaffrelot and A Kalaiyarasan write in The Indian Express about the socio-economic condition of Muslims, saying that “less than 10 percent of them have a salaried job in the three states where they are among the poorest (Haryana, Bihar and West Bengal), whereas more than 20 percent of them have a salaried job in two of the states where they are the richest (Kerala and Maharashtra)”. The higher rates of formal employment are due to reservation policies and positive discrimination practices in south India. In the states where their formal employment rates are low, Muslims are clearly economically deprived.

Bank workers to strike work because of a shortage of cash

“Bank employees in India are tired of getting the stick for government’s and central bank’s inefficiency. Harangued and heckled by customers angry over an acute cash-crunch in the economy, some 500,000 of them are set to go on a strike soon.” Read more here.

Bangalore pourakarmikas on strike again

Hundreds of pourakarmikas (garbage cleaners) went on strike on Friday outside a Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) office asking for their salary that has been delayed since January. One of the reasons for the delay is the fact that many of the workers are missing from the biometric system that marks attendance. According to New Indian Express, “Meghana, a worker from the eastern part of the city expressed her indignation at the continuous threat of layoffs from BBMP. She said every day they are told people will be removed from work, but never told why or who will be removed. This, she said, causes a lot of stress.” This means that despite the abolishment of the contractor system, the workers’ lives have not seen improvement.

12,000 employees set to lose jobs as Alok Industries set to enter liquidation

Alok Industries was one of the largest sources of non-performing assets (NPAs) identified by the Reserve Bank of India for resolution under the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code in 2017. As they head into liquidation this year, 12,000 employees are set to lose jobs in what ET describes as possibly “the biggest labour casualty since the implementation of the bankruptcy code”. The median salary for these workers is about 1.45 lakhs. The company owes almost Rs. 30,000 crores to lenders.

International news

German public sector workers win “best deal in years” after a successful strike

As reported last week, millions of German public sector workers went on strike ahead of negotiations with the government. This move brought things to a screeching halt in many parts of the country but, as usual, the media mostly reported the event in terms of a disruption to normal life. The workers are vindicated though. Ver.di has struck a deal with the government that leads to a 7.5% average wage increase over the next three years. “This is the best result we have had in years,” Ver.di boss Frank Bsirske said.

State-wide strike by Arizona’s teachers

Arizona’s teachers have announced that there will be a state-wide walkout on April 26, the state’s first, to protest low pay and funding. The vote follows successful strikes by teachers in West Virginia, Oklahoma and Kentucky this year.

Kenya bans workers’ strikes in essential services sectors

Kenya’s Labour Relations Act is going through major changes as the government adds a section detailing which workers cannot strike work and what the penalty will be if they do. The sectors covered by this section include healthcare, electricity, water, sanitation, telecommunication services, air navigational services, meteorologists, firefighters, fuel distributors and port workers. If work in any of the above sectors is disrupted because of strikes, union leaders will be fined Sh500,000 each (equivalent to $5000) or will face a minimum of three months of imprisonment.

Weekend reading/listening:

  • The lectores who read to Cuban cigar-rollers: “Labourers would volunteer to stand up and place themselves in the middle of a factory floor—where they could be easily heard by all—and read for a half-hour per shift before another worker would take their place. To make up for the wages lost reading, their fellow employees would donate part of their salary.” Read more here.
  • Belabored Podcast #148: Teachers who organise around education talk about organising outside the law.
  • Sarah Jaffe writes about why teachers have been taking to militant politics: “When schools that have been cut to the bone and more are being threatened with closure or privatisation, teachers have increasingly asked: What do they have to lose by going on strike, even if those strikes are technically against the law?”
  • ProPublica investigates IBM’s massive layoffs and finds that since 2013, the company has fired over 20,000 employees, i.e., 60% of its layoffs in the U.S, who are age 40 or older.
  • Alarming numbers of workers at Momentive Performance Materials, the chemical plant in Waterford, New York, have been diagnosed with various cancers. Ian Frisch writes about their strike for better health care.