Life of Labour: Farmers March to Mumbai; Overworked, Vacation Deprived Indians

Latest news updates from the world of work.

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Kisan Mukti Yatra: Farmers march to Mumbai demanding loan waiver

Over 10,000 farmers from Maharashtra marched to Mumbai, demanding that the state BJP government implement the loan waiver and land rights promised eight months ago, after a similar march by farmers.

A delegation of farmers met chief minister Devendra Fadnavis, pressuring the government to fulfil its promises. This comes in the backdrop of a major agitation planned by farmers across north India, who will be taking a massive rally to New Delhi. Tens of thousands of farmers represented by over 200 organisations under the federated banner of All India Kisan Sangarsh Coordination Committee are taking out the ‘Kisan Mukti Yatra’. They are demanding a special session of parliament to debate and pass two model legislations for guaranteed remuneration and freedom from indebtedness. They will also be releasing a ‘Farmers Charter’ that focuses on resolving the acute agrarian crisis.

Watch veteran journalist, P. Sainath discussing the reasons for the agrarian crisis and the rationale behind the demands, in his address to student so Delhi University. In an anecdotal piece, Kabir Agarwal writes in The Wire about the deepening farm crisis and the voids its leaving within farming families.

Five Year Programme for Decent Work in India: ILO report

Illustration by Aliza Bakht

Illustration by Aliza Bakht

ILO has released its third Five Year ‘Decent Work Country Programme’ to promote inclusive, safe workspaces and evolve a robust tripartite mechanism for improving working conditions.

The programme, to be implemented from 2018-2022, offers a road map to the government, employer and workers’ associations to strategise on the three priorities of safety, inclusivity and tripartite mechanisms.

While the government presented a slew of measures it has enacted as a testament to its commitment to labour welfare, Amarjeet Kaur, general secretary of AITUC, criticised the government on its attempt to dilute labour laws and increase precarity of work, calling out the doublespeak on tripartism, when the government is bulldozing labour reforms inspite of opposition from trade unions.

Labour Code on Health and Safety might see its day in parliament soon

The labour ministry hopes to table the labour code pertaining the occupational health and safety in the winter session of parliament and it is very confident that the draft will get its approval from trade unions as well as employers associations. The code is set to replace and update over 16 different laws that are in place to ensure workers safety at work place and compensate them for lost life and livelihood due to worksite accidents. The code proposes to establish a national level advisory board that will prescribe standards and oversee implementation and enforcement of the standards. The code also proposes national licensing of contracting firms, which will allow these firms to operate across India. This has been a long standing demand of the growing staffing companies that have entered the lucrative market of providing contract workers to major industries.

E-Sevai workers demand fair wage and better working conditions

The E-sevai workers of Tamil Nadu conducted a demonstration demanding fair wage and better working conditions on November 21 at Valluvar Kottam in Chennai. E-Sevai is the digital platform of the Tamil Nadu government which offers citizens various services like IDs, tax payments, registrations, etc. Over 200 data entry operators of E-sevai centres across the state participated in the demonstration, which was organised by the Union of IT (Information Technology) and ITES (Information Technology Enabled Services) Employees (UNITE).

The specific protest was triggered after errors in entering biometric attendance of the E-Sevai workers led to drastic cuts in their salaries, which are already below minimum wages. Apart from this, the workers are also demanding permanent work with the government departments as they have worked beyond the mandated days required to seek to permanent jobs as per the Tamil Nadu Confirmation of Employment Act.

Pune-based Kam-Avida invents Hope Machine to tackle manual scavenging

The lack of sewage cleaning machines has been cited as one reason why the practice of manual scavenging still exists. In the last year or so, multiple machines have been invented that solve this problem including the Hope Machine released by Pune-based Kam-Avida which costs Rs 43 lakh. The Better India reports, “The Delhi Jal Board has placed an order for 200 such ‘Hope Machines’, although red-tape is reportedly delaying the process. However, they have promised to put 80 such machines to work by the end of the year.”

Vacations remain sour grapes for Indians

A study by a travel company on vacation patterns among workers across the world has identified Indians to be the most vacation deprived, with over 75% reporting that they are vacation deprived. This compares poorly to even India a year ago, where only 60% reported being vacation deprived. The report goes further to enumerate a number of reasons, from lack of time off from work, to unaffordability and even peer pressure and competitiveness. The report is sad testament to our work culture, while also a warning signal to the long term consequences of a overworked population.

Chennai corporation conservancy workers protest privatisation move in eight more zones

The Chennai city corporation is floating tenders to outsource conservancy work in eight zones to private companies. The Corporation apparently sees the financial load of workers’ salaries and benefits as too high a cost for them and sees the outsourcing as a cost-cutting measure. How would this be possible unless the corporation believed that the private companies would underpay and exploit the workers on their behalf? In response, workers organised a protest and threatened to go on a hunger strike unless the tenders were withdrawn.

Ludhiana: Cylinder blast in unit kills worker

Rajinder Rai, a worker at Happy Forgings Limited, died when a cylinder exploded in a factory. He was working alone in the assembling department and was declared dead by the time he reached the hospital. The report makes no mention of an legal action against the employer, simply stating that they are waiting for his son to return from Delhi.

International news

Amazon workers across Europe will protest ‘inhuman’ warehouse working conditions on Black Friday

Unions are planning actions in three countries on Black Friday, the American shopping festival. In the UK, there will be a protest while in France and Spain, workers will be going on a 24-hour strike. These agitations are trying to force the company to actually take the complaints about horrible working conditions seriously.

The general secretary of GMB, a British union, Tim Roache described the working conditions at Amazon as “frankly inhuman”. He also said: “They are breaking bones, being knocked unconscious and being taken away in ambulances.”

The Guardian has begun a column called ‘Amazon Diaries’ where an Amazon worker writes a column anonymously about their life at the company. In the first column, the worker wrote that Amazon treats them as “disposable parts”.

Thousands protest South Korea’s lack of labour reforms

An estimated 160,000 workers began to protest in South Korea against the government’s lack of fulfilment of promised reforms. The government seems to be moving in the opposite direction by messing around with the maximum number of hours per week to help industries. One election promise was to increase the minimum wage from 6.66$ to 8.85$.

“Since President Moon Jae-in came to power, the policies on labour have gone backward. Even though he raised minimum wage by 16 percent, he revised the sector to be included in the calculation of wages only to make the raise useless for workers,” Jung Su-nam, KCTU spokesperson, told Al Jazeera.

Weekend reading

Rinchin’s I Will Save My Land: A persuasive look at children and the anti-land grab movement

In this essay, Nandini Dhar goes beyond a value-based theses about this new children’s book to an exploration of the politics of childhood.

“As a writer and teacher, I am always looking for children’s books that can offer complex and well-done stories of childhood…And, it is in the context of that quest that I first came across Rinchin, in a panel on  art for children at the People’s Literary Festival, 2018 – in Kolkata. Rinchin divides her time between Chattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh. She happens to be an activist who works with people’s movements, and so far has written six books for children. Let me put it clearly. I was tempted to take a look into Rinchin’s oeuvre of work, precisely because I was interested to see what kinds of representations for children would an activist create.”

Read more here.

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