The Life of Labour: Police Firing Injures 24 Workers in Motihari, Haryana Transport Workers’ Strike

Latest news updates from the world of work.

Haryana transport workers’ strike wins crucial demand against privatisation

Workers of Haryana Roadways, the department of state transport of Haryana Government, struck work on Monday after their demand to scrap the new transport policy was rejected. The policy will increase the number of routes and buses run by private operators, rather than increasing adequately the buses operated by state transport. The employees felt that such action would increase the precariousness of the jobs in the sector, while also lowering the quality of service. In an attempt to break the strike, the government suspended 120 employees on Tuesday.

However, when the strike intensified on Wednesday, the government agreed to their demands and announced that it would scrap the policy. It has also agreed to redraft a policy with active consultation from the unions. However, the licenses renewed to private operators prior to the new policy will continue to be valid. The government has also agreed to procure more buses to reduce the gap between demand and availability. The 120 suspended workers will be reinstated.

Tamil Nadu farmers’ protest enters second month

Farmers from Tamil Nadu have been protesting in Delhi for over a month, demanding that a fair drought relief package be provided to the drought hit farmers of the state. They have been staging various forms of protest in order to attract the attention of the central government to their plight. This week, they shed their clothes and stood naked before the PMO, symbolising their destitution. This act of extreme frustration was triggered when, despite prior permission, farmer representatives who had gone to the PMO to submit a petition were denied entry. Only one person was allowed inside and he too had to leave the petition with a lower officer. Infuriated by this treatment, three farmers stripped and stood naked in front of the PMO, before being detained by the police. In the past month, many have fallen sick because of the extreme heat, yet more have joined them in this struggle. They have sought a written assurance from the PM that a fair package will be provided to Tamil Nadu.

The intransigence of the Central Government in approving a Rs. 40,000 crore package to provide debt relief and the state government’s failure to alleviate the extreme distress has been widely criticised. Even the Supreme Court has demanded action from the Tamil Nadu government.

Contract workers lose jobs for demanding minimum wages at AIIMS, New Delhi

According to the Delhi Hospitals Contractual Workers Union, the private company Sudarshan Facilities Pvt Ltd has been given the contract for hiring housekeeping staff for running the services at the AIIMS Trauma Centre. The New Indian Express reports that when the employees demanded that they should be paid minimum wages as per the law, the hospital administration called the police, who manhandled the workers. “Next day, the services of the 12 employees were terminated,” said Dr Animesh Das, President of Delhi Hospitals Contractual Workers Union.

Deemed varsities are profit making institutions and should pay bonus to staff

Noting that ‘deemed to be universities’ cannot be considered as non-profit making institutions for the purpose of exempting them from paying bonus to their employees, the Industrial Disputes Tribunal, Chennai, has directed Sathyabama University to pay bonus to the drivers and technicians employed in the institution as per the provisions of the Motor Transport Employees Act.

Police firing injures 24 workers in Motihari, Bihar

Police opened fire against mill workers of the Motihari sugar factory, injuring 24 workers. The workers and farmers were protesting against non payment of salaries and dues by the company since 2002, when the company had shut down. Two workers even attempted to set themselves on fire. It is estimated that over Rs. 18 crore is overdue. When farmers joined the protesting workers, the police tried to disperse them with  lathis, and the workers resisted by stone pelting. The police resorted to firing, injuring 24 workers.

ITUC calls for asbestos trade crackdown

The International Trade Union Confederation has called for international efforts to get all signatories of the Rotterdam Convention on trade in hazardous substances to consent that Chrysotile, a form of asbestos, should be listed as a hazardous substance at the upcoming Rotterdam Convention next week. This move will curb the export of the material, while allowing importing countries to place greater regulation and safety clauses to prevent health effects to workers. Sharan Burrow, ITUC General Secretary, said “Asbestos, including chrysotile, is one of the biggest industrial killers of all time. Tens of thousands of people die from it each year, and it is scandalous that more than a hundred million people are still exposed to chrysotile asbestos. Getting it on the Rotterdam list is an important step towards protecting those, especially in developing countries, who are increasingly being exposed to it.”

Trade unions and many governments will be pushing for the listing at the next international Rotterdam Convention conference in Geneva starting on 24 April. Under its current rules, full consensus is required to introduce a chemical onto the list.

Anganwadi workers get a meagre rise in salaries

After a month of determined protests, Anganwadi workers have forced the Karnataka government to raise their wages by another Rs 1000, making the monthly wage of full time staff overseeing a centre Rs 8000, of those overseeing a mini-centre Rs 4750, and of helpers Rs 4000. While the wages remain well below the minimum living wage of Rs.18000 that the workers have been demanding, even this modest raise has been a consequence of a continued strike and protests.

Sanitation workers in Mumbai to gain permanent tenure after 10 years of legal battle

After ten years of litigation, 2700 sanitation workers of Mumbai Municipal Corporation will be made permanent employees, thanks to the ruling by Supreme Court on April 7th. The case that was filed in 2007 with the labour tribunal slowly moved through the judicial appellate process and reached the Supreme Court, with courts at each stage ordering the municipal corporation to provide permanent tenure.

Strike at Apollo Tyres Oragadam cripples production

Over 1000 permanent workers and trainees at the Apollo Tyres manufacturing unit in Oragadam struck work for two consecutive days on April 4th and 5th. They demanded the right to form a union, and better wages and working conditions. Workers from all shifts participated, including over 200 North Indian workers mainly from Odisha. The strike, which was started by workers without any union backing, ended after a CITU-led intervention took the workers to the labour department on April 5th to resolve the issue.

Union leader in Kazakhstan sentenced to 2.5 years imprisonment for advising workers to strike

On 7th April, a court in Kazakhstan sentenced union leader Nurbek Kushakbayev to two and a half years of imprisonment for advising workers to go on a strike against the Oil Construction Company of Kazakhstan. The court has also ordered him to pay $80000 (close to Rs. 55 Lakhs) as compensation to the company for loss of production. This action has come under serious criticism from international labour unions as well as from human rights organisations like Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International. An online petition has also been initiated for international workers to demand the repeal of this unjust sentence.

Read more about the strike here and here.

Communalism and Working Class Struggles: Prabhat Patnaik

In a recent article on Newsclick, Prabhat Patnaik maintains that the systematic attack on class-based organising by the neoliberal state is creating fertile conditions for the rise of Hindu majoritarian communal fervour among the people, leading to atrocities against minorities. He maintains that the disenchanted and alienated worker finds expression for his/her frustration and destitution in identity-based sectarian organisations. He argues that there is a causal link between neoliberal policies and the rise of majoritarian tendencies, and that it is no coincidence that both are on the rise.