A large number of workers from across the country marched to Parliament on Thursday in a protest rally demanding minimum wages and universal social security cover for organised and unorganised workers. One of the main aims of the protest, which saw participation of employees of the Central and State governments and banking, insurance, defence and telecom sectors, was to pressurise the Government for strict implementation of labour laws in the country.
The protest was part of a nationwide campaign to chalk out a unified strategy against “anti-workers policies of the Government” by the Central trade unions, a confederation of all the prominent trade unions and workers groups. In the next stage of its struggle, all the employee and trade unions will organise a two-day general strike on 20-21 February 2013.
Amid slogans against the labour policies of the Government, A. K. Padmanabhan, president of the Centre of Indian trade Unions (CITU), said the working class in the country was working under the worst circumstances and, in some cases, “bereft of any dignity”.
“The contract system of hiring workers on permanent/temporary basis is an exploitative mechanism though which the workers of this country are being denied payment of wages and benefits to them,” Mr. Padmanabhan said, demanding amendment in the Minimum Wages Act to ensure universal coverage irrespective of the schedules and fixation of statutory minimum wage with wages not less than Rs. 10,000.
He specifically mentioned the case of workers of the Maruti Suzuki plant in Manesar where the company terminated the services of 546 “permanent” and 1,800 “temporary” workers on the pretext of the July 18 violence in which one senior executive was killed. The police arrested 149 of them for alleged involvement in the violence.
He demanded compulsory and time-bound registration of trade unions within 45 days of application.
The speakers at the rally who included All-India Trade Union Congress leader Gurudas Dasgupta demanded that the Government stop disinvestment in Central and State public sector undertakings and establish a National Social Security Fund for workers. He underscored that the life of ordinary workers cannot improve without taking concrete measures to contain price rise and employment generation.
The workers demanded assured pension for all and removal of all ceilings on payment and eligibility of bonus, provident fund and increase in the quantum of gratuity.