Workers from different sectors all over the country have organised dharnas, demonstrations and other protest actions, to express their strong opposition to the pro-capitalist amendments in labour laws and the all-sided attacks on the rights of the working class, that the government is trying to implement, using the pretext of the COVID-19 pandemic and the lockdown.
|Defence Employees Against Corporatisation|
On May 22, workers organized protest actions in response to the call of the 10 Central Trade Unions -- Centre of Indian Trade Unions, All India Trade Union Congress, Indian National Trade Union Congress, Hind Mazdoor Sabha, All India United Trade Union Centre, Trade Union Coordination Committee, All India Central Council of Trade Unions, Self Employed Women’s Association, Labour Progressive Federation and United Trade Union Congress. Through posters, placards and slogans, workers demanded immediate withdrawal of the anti-working class amendments in labour laws. They denounced the privatization of public sector enterprises and corporatization of agriculture that the government is trying to push through in the name of “reviving the economy”. They demanded immediate relief measures and social security for the crores of workers who have lost their livelihood and are left to fend for themselves. In Delhi, a protest dharna was held at Rajghat.
Earlier, on May 20, the Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh (BMS) organized day long protest actions all over the country, against the anti-worker amendments to the labour laws in 14 states. The protestors denounced the government for pushing through unilateral changes in labour laws and unbridled privatization of public sector enterprises. They raised slogans against the government for not providing relief for workers who have lost their jobs and not making proper travel arrangements for workers to return to their home states. They denounced the massive job losses, the non-payment of wages to workers for the lockdown period, lack of provision of COVID-19 benefits to health workers and other service providers, increasing working hours per day in factories from 8-12 hours and other attacks on workers’ rights. In Delhi a demonstration was held at Jantar Mantar. Protest actions were also organized in different sectors in many other parts of the country.
Employees from the federations and associations of banks, defence, telecom, railways and other public sector undertakings observed protest at their respective workplaces. Workers in many public sector enterprises (PSEs) came out in protest against the Centre’s plans to step up privatization of many strategic PSEs, as had been announced by the Finance Minister on May 17. Workers in factories, health workers and workers of many other sectors staged protest actions.
Workers at 41 units of ordnance factories across the country, under the banner of the All India Defence Employees Federation (AIDEF), observed protest against the recently announced proposal to corporatise the factory board, which they said, is first step towards the eventual privatization of the ordnance factroies.
Employees of Bharatiya Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL) protested against the government orders to increase each working shift from eight hours to twelve hours. In addition, the employees raised slogans denouncing the government for working in the interests of the big private telecom companies by not providing 4G services to BSNL.
Workers in Rudrapur district of Uttarakhand organized protest actions condemning the recent amendments to the labour laws announced by the state government, which they said “will reduce workers to slavery”.
Hundreds of workers in Himachal Pradesh protested against the announced changes in the Factory Act, Contract Labour Act, Industrial Disputes Act and against other attacks on workers’ rights. They submitted memorandums to the Chief Minister through deputy commissioners at the district headquarters in various cities in the state.
Workers in many industrial areas of Ghaziabad, UP, held protest demonstrations demanding immediate roll-back of the UP government’s decision to exempt factories from almost all labour laws for a period of 1000 days.
Anganwadi and ASHA workers, inspite of being on COVID-19 screening and documentation duty, participated in protest actions in Punjab and several other places. They also highlighted their demands for regularization of jobs, adequate wages, job security and protective gear for the hazardous work they are performing. Workers engaged in the anti-malaria drive in Delhi, led by the Anti Malaria Employees Union, demonstrated against the onslaught on workers’ rights by the government. As frontline workers during the covid-19 lockdown, they also demanded masks and sanitizers.
Port and Dock workers as well as Power and Electricity workers staged demonstrations against the attacks on their rights. Haryana Electricity Board workers staged protests on May 22, against the state government’s order to increase the working day from 8 hours to 12 hours.
In Telangana, Jharkhand and Gujarat there were several protest demonstrations of municipal workers, beedi plantation workers, etc. In Maharashtra, industrial workers observed two hours strike in various factories, demanding withdrawal of the anti-working class amendments. In Tamil Nadu, there were tens of thousands of protest actions, with nearly 2 lakh workers participating. Protesting workers clashed with the police in several places in Bihar and UP.
Workers in the tea estates of West Bengal, who have been doubly hit by the coronavirus-induced lockdown and the Amphan cyclone, held joint protest actions demanding relief from the tea estate owners and the government.
Defence employees, Railway employees and employees of various PSEs which are facing the threat of privatization organized protest demonstrations in their respective workplaces.
Workers in many industrial areas in Rajasthan, Punjab, Madhya Pradesh, Jharkhand & Delhi held protests. Construction workers in Kalahandi (Odisha), insurance workers in Hubli (Karnataka), steel workers in Burnpur (Bihar), tea plantation workers in Assam, among others, also participated in protest actions.
Workers in the uranium mines in Jaduguda (Jharkhand) protested in pouring rain. Copper mine workers of Malajkhand (MP) and workers in entire coal belt of eastern India held protest actions. Marine fish workers of Kerala protested for their rights. Workers in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Bengal and Odisha protested against the anti-worker labour law amendments. Employees of the Electricity Boards of Tamil Nadu and Rajasthan also participated in various protest actions.
These protest actions by workers from different sectors, all over the country, were held in extremely difficult conditions, braving the Coronavirus lockdown and the orders of the state prohibiting protests and demonstrations. They express the united opposition of the workers of our country to the onslaught of the government on our rights.
The ruling capitalist class and its state are trying to silence the voice of protest of the working class through the lockdown and ban on political actions. They are hoping to push through unopposed, this vicious onslaught on our rights. But the working class of our country is vigorously resisting these attacks, foiling the plans of the capitalists and their state.
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