Jute workers to go on indefinite strike
Over 2.5 lakh jute mill workers in West Bengal have decided to launch an indefinite strike from March 1, 2019. These workers are demanding wage revision and implementation of the Minimum Wages Act in the jute industry. The strike across all jute mills in the state is expected to impact over 4.5 million jute growers.
A joint convention of 21 trade unions representing jute mill workers announced this decision.
Jute mill workers in West Bengal are severely exploited and very poorly paid. Workers are being paid Rs 257 per day. The work is extremely labour intensive and involves physically strenuous work.
According to the trade unions, the mill owners have not paid Rs 1,050 crore of retirement and provident fund dues to workers. In many cases these dues were not paid even 10-15 years after retirement. Many ailing and aged jute mill workers have passed away without receiving any retirement dues after toiling for 35-40 years.
Workers have denounced the government of West Bengal, and the Central government for refusing to accept their just demands. They have opposed the attempts of the members of Legislative Assembly of the ruling Trinamul Congress to smash their unions.
Airport Authority of India workers to launch strike against privatisation
Nearly 10,000 workers of the Airports Authority of India (AAI) will go on an indefinite strike from February 20. The workers, organised under the banner of the Airports Authority Employees Union (AAEU) are protesting against the proposed privatisation of six airports.
The proposal to privatise the airports, of Ahmedabad, Jaipur, Lucknow, Guwahati, Thiruvananthapuram, and Mangaluru, was approved by the Central government in November 2018.
Several protests were organised by AAEU in December at airports across the country against this proposal. The AAEU has pointed out that privatisation will lead to intensified exploitation of workers, as the staff will be hired only on contractual basis. It will also lead to monopoly control of all airports by GVK and GMR, the two private operators that run the airports that have been privatised already.
The privatisation of airports has been carried out under the so called public private partnership model. (PPP model). The experience of the privatisation of Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru and Hyderabad shows that this is nothing but the loot of the public exchequer to favour private operators. The risky, loss making investments and the building of highways leading to the privatised airports has been the responsibility of the government, while the private operators have been given the profit-making part of the partnership, such as renting the facilities of the airport to the users — both the shops that rent the spaces as well as the airlines. Privatisation has resulted in massive increase in user fees for passengers.
The AAEU has pointed out that that Airports Authority of India has spent enormous sum of money to modernise these six airports that the government now proposes to hand over to private parties. This is nothing but handing over public funds to the monopolies that will run these airports.
Mid-day meal cooks gherao Bihar Assembly
Nearly 10,000 mid-day meal cooks, known as rasoiyas, gheraoed the Bihar assembly on February 12, 2019. The gherao was part of the ongoing 35 day protest. the workers are demanding minimum wages, implementation of the labour laws and social security.
With red flags, banners and placards in their hands, the workers gheraoed the state assembly, in the face of heavy police deployment. The workers, mostly women, assembled at Gardanibagh and marched towards the assembly.
The mid-day meal workers are extremely angry at the response of the government to their prolonged agitation for their just demands. The Bihar government has refused to hold discussions with the workers. Instead it has threatened to use force to crush the workers strike.
The strike has resulted in over one crore children being deprived of mid-day meals for over a month. It has also resulted in drop in attendance in schools. The refusal of the government to even talk with the workers over their demands reveals that the government does not care for the wellbeing of the children studying in government schools.
The Bihar authorities have issued a circular threatening the mid-day meal workers with dismissal. However, the workers have refused to bow down to these threats and have militantly continued their strike.
Agitation of outsourced workers in Himachal Pradesh
Thousands of outsourced workers from across Himachal Pradesh will gherao the Vidhan Sabha (State Assembly) in Shimla on February 13, 2019. They are protesting against the violation of labour laws and their severe exploitation. According to their union, the Himachal Pradesh Outsourced Workers Union (HPOWU), there are nearly 42,000 outsourced workers in Himachal Pradesh.
The Himachal Pradesh government has refused to regularise outsourced workers. The outsourcing agencies openly violate all labour laws. The outsourced workers are paid much lower wages as compared to regular workers, for the same work. Most outsourced workers are forced to work for 10-12 hours but are not even being paid minimum wages. They are not paid overtime. They are deprived of EPF, ESI, Bonus, gratuity, holidays etc.