The Life of Labour: Job Cut at Reliance Jio, Bonanza for ASHA Workers in Andhra

Latest news updates from the world of work.

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Agrarian crisis

Tamil Nadu facing acute water crisis

Scanty rains and drying reservoirs indicate yet another difficult year for Tamil Nadu farmers. The poor storage in the major reservoirs, as well as the tanks, ponds and other surface water sources, has forced the farmers to skip the kuruvai crop (short-term paddy crop). While the government paints it as a rainfall issue over which it has little control, farmers and activists claim that the drought is a consequence of state policies that have neglected efficient water management and protection of rivers and ponds.

Gender at work

Delhi government proposes free public transport for women and creche at the secretariat

The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government in Delhi, in keeping with its liberal policy perspectives, has proposed to set up a creche at the secretariat. Writing to the women and child development ministry on this issue, the deputy chief minister has said that it is the responsibility of the employer to help support the work-life balance of its employees. With a large section of the employees at the secretariat being women, a creche will ease their ability to take care of their children while at work.

In another populist move, the AAP government has proposed to make public transport free for women as a way to make it safer for them to travel. The proposal that will affect the Delhi Metro as well as the Delhi bus transport network has created a major debate

While Delhi remains the only city in the country to have an all-CNG public bus transport system, it has failed to expand it enough. Credit: Reuters

Arunachal government extends maternity benefits to contractual staff

Having secured a second term, the Pema Khandu-led Arunachal government has announced that it will extend maternity benefits to the contractual staff of the state government. So far, only permanent staff members enjoyed these benefits.

The maternity benefits will allow contingency and contract workers to avail 180 days of paid maternity leave as well as 60 days of childcare leave. This move, the government stated, will benefit 20,000 workers.  

Bonanza for ASHA workers in Andhra Pradesh

ASHA workers across India have been fighting for better wage terms. While they perform an onerous task, they are paid poorly since their work is not considered ‘full time’. However, the newly-elected government in Andhra Pradesh, led by Jaganmohan Reddy, has hiked the salaries of ASHA workers in the state from Rs 3,000 to Rs 10,000.

ASHA workers are a key element of the National Rural Health Mission. Their protests in the previous years had forced the Central government to increase their ‘honorarium’. This move by Andhra will aid thousands of such workers in the state while setting a precedent for others as well.

Death at work

One worker killed, two injured after an explosion in factory

One worker was killed at the Reginis Explosives Company in Telangana when a detonator accidentally blew up. Two others have also been injured critically. The worker was from Chhattisgarh.

Growth and unemployment

It’s official, India facing the highest unemployment rate in 45 years

The hotly contested NSSO’s periodic labour force survey was released this week. It reveals that the unemployment rate as computed using a new methodology is at a high of 6.1%. However, the data is not comparable with earlier years due to a change in methodology.

The data, which had been compiled in October 2018, was not released by the Central government, causing tension among senior officials and statisticians. The report’s key findings had also been leaked to the media.

While the government at that time had claimed that the data had not been thoroughly vetted, it released the very same report immediately after the elections in which the incumbent government won a historic majority. Whether or not the unemployment is as high as claimed, it reveals the crisis in our economy. This is reflected in the bleeding of quality jobs, both in manufacturing and service sectors.

Daily wage workers wait for employment on a street side at an industrial area in Mumbai. Credit: Reuters

India facing acute shortage of skilled healthcare providers

A research paper published in BMJ Research has estimated that India has far lower health professionals per capita than the minimum threshold of 22.8 per 10,000 prescribed by the WHO. We rank below many South Asian countries including Sri Lanka and Thailand. This has placed India in the ‘Critical Shortage of Healthcare Providers’ category maintained by the WHO.

Telangana teachers demand government fill vacant posts

Members of the Telangana State Upadhyaya Sangla Porata Committee staged a dharna in Hyderabad demanding that vacant teachers’ positions be filled up at the earliest. The protesting teachers demanded that the seats should be filled by recruiting all those who had passed the eligibility examination two years ago.

“When there was vacancy for 23,000 teacher posts, the Telangana government only issued notification to fill 8,972 posts. What is worse is that candidates are being made to wait over two years to get their appointment,” said the general secretary of the committee to Times of India. The protestors also criticised the indifferent attitude of the government to education.

After slashing prices, Reliance Jio cuts more than 5,000 jobs

The Economic Times has reported that Reliance Jio is likely cutting over 5,000 jobs, mostly of contractual workers. Some 500-600 permanent workers are also part of the cut. While Reliance Jio has denied that there has been a major job cut, claiming that it was still a net recruiter this year, the article claims that lower operating margins might have forced Jio to cut costs through retrenchments.

Aggressive pricing and capital expansion saw Reliance Jio net a large volume of the mobile market. However, analysts claim that it might be time for the company to rationalise its operating costs. But this has come at the expense of workers, who account for about 5% of the overall costs to the company.

Other news

It has been 50 years since the Centre for Indian Trade Unions was formed after a major split with the All India Trade Union Congress. Newsclick has published an essay on that historic moment.

Labour reforms and privatisation of PSUs high on agenda of NDA 2.0

The deputy chairperson of NITI Aayog, the policy think-tank of the government, has claimed that the first 100 days of the second term of the government will see a high-pitched reform agenda that includes passing the labour reform measures that the government failed to move in the past five years. It will also see the rapid privatisation or closure of 46 PSUs.

Credit: PTI

Both measures do not augur well for an embattled working class, whose members voted the BJP to a historic second term majority. It also poses a danger to the economy at a time when the Indian economy is not only slowing down but also finding it difficult to create enough quality jobs to accommodate the large population entering the workforce.

Swiggy workers in Kerala and Telangana resist arbitrary changes to their wage scales

The food delivery executives of Swiggy in Kochi, Kerala and in Musheerabad, Telangana, are protesting against continuing wage issues. The platform has been making news for its anti-worker policies. In Kochi, an indefinite strike was launched against the reduction in payment scale. More than 500 workers actively participated in the strike which began May 28.

With the management agreeing to meet the demands of the workers, the strike was temporarily called off on Friday. The workers, however, have made it clear that they would resume the strike after a week if the management fails to fulfil the promises.

As per the earlier scale, the workers had been getting a minimum of Rs 25 for delivering food within 4 km and there was an additional Rs 5 for each extra kilometre. However, the new scale has been set as Rs 25 for 5 km. Swiggy management has also taken away the waiting charges for the delivery workers. “The new scale had been implemented from last Monday without information,” said one of the protesting workers.

Workers had organised an unplanned strike in Tamil Nadu a few months ago when incentives were downgraded unilaterally.

Pakistani workers help in freeing Telangana man from Saudi 

When news of a worker seeking to be rescued from forced employment in Saudi Arabia reached a group of Indian and Pakistani workers there, they organised a daring rescue. The workers, native of Telangana, was taken to Saudi Arabia by contractors. They had promised him a good job. However, once there, he was sent to a remote desert region and left to tend to goats.

Even though he resisted, he was forced into this work. He managed to send news about his predicament through video message back home. This alerted his relatives who contacted Indian workers in Saudi Arabia. They, along with some Pakistani workers, searched for the man and managed to secretly secure his release. He is presently in the Indian Embassy in Riyadh. 

International news

Anti-austerity protests bring Argentina to a standstill

Much of Argentina came to a standstill on Wednesday as a strike to protest government austerity measures grounded hundreds of flights, halted bus and train lines and forced the closing of banks, courts and many schools. The country’s main grains ports were also shut and hospitals offered only emergency services during the 24-hour strike organised by labour unions to protest the policies of President Mauricio Macri. They include the firing of workers and the slashing of government subsidies that have shot up the costs of transportation and utility rates. Argentines are also fed up with the recession, the devaluation of their currency and one of the world’s highest inflation rates.

More temps than full-time staff at Google 

The tech companies of the Silicon Valley have long prided themselves on great work culture, employee-employer relationships and idyllic work environments. They have even championed causes such as gender equality and diversity. But a recent headcount reveals that at Google, temps outnumber the full-time staff. This puts a dent on the claims of Google regarding their work culture. The full-time employees are not only cognisant of this development and the two-tier conditions, they have also actively sought to dismantle this emerging structure.

Though the contract staff often work side by side with full-timers, they are usually employed by outside agencies. They make less money, have different benefits plans and have no paid vacation time in the US, according to more than a dozen current and former Google temp and contract workers. This dual structure was even a point of issue that was flagged by Google workers during a recent walkout. Google has responded stating it is improving its policies around the employment of contract workers but has given no specific commitments.

Workers’ ownership of enterprise might make a mark in the US this election season, thanks to Bernie Sanders’s campaign. According to the Washington Post, “Sanders said his campaign is working on a plan to require large businesses to regularly contribute a portion of their stocks to a fund controlled by employees, which would pay out a regular dividend to the workers.”

Writing for Jacobin magazine, Matt Bruenig, who has argued for similar schemes before, has compared this idea with the Meidner Plan and the economic policies of fellow Democrats like Elizabeth Warren.