The Life of Labour: 3 More Die in Delhi's Sewers, Israeli Workers Can No Longer Strike

Illustration by Aliza Bakht

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Illustration by Aliza Bakht

Thousands of South African mine workers gather at site of Marikana massacre

The 5th anniversary of the Marikana massacre was commemorated by thousands of mine workers at the open site where the violence took place. 34 mine workers had died in the incident, which is often described as one of the worst acts of violence in the nation’s recent history.

The Guardian writes,“On 16 August 2012, South African police opened fire on a large crowd of men who had walked out on strike from a platinum mine at Marikana, about 80 miles north of Johannesburg. They shot down 112 of them, killing 34. In any country, this would have been a traumatic moment. For South Africa, it was a special kind of nightmare, since it revived images of massacres by the state in the old apartheid era, with one brutal difference – this time it was predominantly black policemen, with black senior officers working for black politicians, who were doing the shooting.”

The state has failed to publish the conclusions of the official inquiry into the incident which may hold senior members of the African National Congress and Lonmin, the mining company, complicit in the crime. The role of the leaders of the National Union of Mineworkers also needs to be clarified, as reports say that they fired upon workers as well.

Here are some pictures of the event.

Three workers killed while cleaning sewers in Delhi

On August 7, a week before the grand Independence Day celebrations, three workers died in Delhi’s sewers while attempting to clean it without proper safety equipment. As is usually the case, when one worker fainted due to asphyxiation, two others attempted to rescue him and fell unconscious. A fourth worker was saved only because he was tied to a rope and the public could pull him to safety as he too began to lose consciousness. The police have filed an FIR and are considering arresting the contractor on charges of culpable homicide.

Film and TV crew in Mumbai on strike from August 15

Over 1.5 lakh cine workers have been on indefinite strike since August 15. Their demands include “eight-hour shifts, working contracts for all employees, increment in salary, working insurance, implementation of safety measures and ensuring proper hygiene by providing clean drinking water, clean bathrooms and dressing rooms”. The workers are organized into 22 unions that are part of Federation of Western India Cine Employee (FWICE). The impact on shootings has been mixed.

This strike follows a 3-day strike by film technicians in Tamilnadu. They had withdrawn the strike after the labour department called for conciliation talks that haven’t yet proven to be successful. In a related development, Film Employees Federation of South India (FEFSI), that had led the strike, has suspended the Technicians’ Union from its affiliation. The stand-off between members of the Technicians’ Union and producers of a forthcoming Tamil movie, ‘Billa Pandi’, had spiralled into a three-day strike. After threatening to hire non-union workers, the Tamilnadu Film Producers Council had even sought an apology from the union. This action by FEFSI indicates its attempt at placating the producers’ council.

Documentary filmmaker arrested and hounded for her fight against manual scavenging

Divya Barathi, whose recent documentary ‘Kakkoos’ exposed the lies and deceit of the state government and political parties in eradicating manual scavenging, has been facing the ire of caste Hindu groups as well as a Dalit political party. She suffered a barrage of calls from unidentified people, threatening her with acid attacks and murder after her phone number was revealed on social media sites. In just a week, she received over 2000 such calls. Cases have also been filed against her for instigating violence, causing enmity between groups and under the SC & ST (prevention of atrocities) Act. The Madurai police arrested her for participating in a protest in 2009. The threats and the lack of police action against the perpetrators are forcing her to leave Tamil Nadu.

ITI Ltd to cut a third of jobs in the next three years

ITI Limited, a state-owned telecom company, has announced plans to cut over 1400 jobs in the next three years as it comes out of ‘sickness’ after 13 years. The public-sector undertaking, established in 1948, was the backbone of India’s telecom sector and employed 35000 workers at its peak. Having established the robust telecom hardware that laid the foundation of the IT revolution in India, it has steadily declined and went into restructuring in 2004. In an interview with The Hindu, the CMD stated that it will cut its permanent employees to 2500 from 3900 and introduce contract hiring in its quest for competitiveness.

Maharashtra farmers face the brunt of ‘digitising India’ as crop insurance deadline runs out

Maharashtra decided to go digital this year with crop insurance, asking farmers to file applications online. With poor connectivity and very few banks with online facilities, farmers had to wait in long queues for many days to file their applications. Lakhs of farmers missed the July 31 deadline. Even after extending the deadline by five more days, 40 lakh fewer farmers have been able to avail crop insurance this year. An article in PARI by MN Partha captures the emotions of the farmers, left on the streets, as they await their turn to file the forms.

Rural postal workers go on strike demanding wage parity and regularisation

Postal workers in Vellore, Tamil Nadu, went on a strike from August 16 demanding wage parity with postal workers in the head office and divisional offices. According to The Hindu, S Moorthy, president of the Vellore division of All India Gramin Dak Sevak Union, said, “We have been fighting for our rights for several decades. We do the same work as that of a postman in a head post office or sub-office in rural areas. But we are paid less and do not get pension after retirement as we are not permanent employees.” They have been demanding the implementation of the Kamalesh Chandra Committee report that recommended parity with regularised postal workers.

Four workers sentenced to life imprisonment for murdering CEO, 67 acquitted

Of the 75 workers who were charge-sheeted for the murder of Graziano Transmissioni’s CEO in 2008, 67 were acquitted this week. Of those convicted, four workers were sentenced to life imprisonment, two workers to three years, and two to one year.

Head load workers at agricultural market in Hubbali protest

Head load workers at Agricultural marketing centres in Hubbali, Karnataka, organised a protest demanding work or compensation from Agricultural Produce Marketing Committee officials for loss of employment. The merchants affiliated to the APMC in this region are on strike since July 24, opposing the e-payments system introduced recently. This has deprived the workers of jobs, causing loss of income and prompting this protest.


The new normal in China’s labour struggles

China Labour Bulletin’s strike map and statistics reveal the steady increase of worker unrest and action in the consumption sectors of the economy as the Chinese government’s focus on economic growth shifts to the local consumption sector. The construction sector still accounts for 40% of the strikes.

The CLB map has become a very important data source to understand the trends in labour actions since the government has stopped providing data on strikes and protests since 2010.

Israeli workers don’t have a ‘right to strike’ against Government policy: High Court rules

The High Court of Justice in Israel has issued a preliminary ruling that workers at state-owned enterprises can no longer strike against market reforms being undertaken by the government. Accepting the government’s argument that strikes against government policy are politically motivated and thus illegal under their law, the high court has overturned its earlier order upholding the ‘right to strike’. This order allows the government to privatise the electricity sector while endangering the immediate employment of 12500 workers. If confirmed, it will also severely curtail the rights of Israeli workers. Read more here.