Workers demand jobs, minimum wages

New Delhi, 08/01/2020. Trade Union Members participating a protest march during a All India General Strike called by the Trade Unions in New Delhi on Wednesday, January 08, 2020. Photo by R V Moorthy / The Hindu

New Delhi, 08/01/2020. Trade Union Members participating a protest march during a All India General Strike called by the Trade Unions in New Delhi on Wednesday, January 08, 2020. Photo by R V Moorthy / The Hindu   | Photo Credit: R_V_Moorthy


Trade union strike evokes partial response in city; protest marches carried out in several industrial areas

The all-India strike called by trade unions over “anti-worker” policies of the Central government on Wednesday evoked partial response in industrial areas in Delhi where workers were seen participating in protest marches and picketing.

In the Wazirpur Industrial area, scores of daily wage earners, construction workers and others assembled at the Shriram Chowk demanding better compensation and provisions for labourers.

Complaining of widespread unemployment, 53-year-old Shrikant Singh, a transport worker with a family of five to support, said: “At one point I was a manager at a factory here but now due to industries shutting up shop, I have to work as a daily wage earner and my income ranges between ₹300 and ₹350 on a given day. Why can’t the government ensure that minimum wages are paid to labourers?”

“By creating a divide between communities, the Centre is simply trying to distract us and hide its own faults. The same public who brought them to power is now being asked to prove their citizenship. Any Hindu who opposes them is anti-national and any Muslim who raises their voice is a terrorist. Instead of saying all this why can’t they concentrate on generating jobs?”

While opposing the proposed labour code, Rajiv Kumar Pandit, who was also at the protest, said, “One of the clauses is that daily wage labourers will get paid on hourly basis under the new law. How is that even possible? If a labourer works for three hours and returns to the chowk around noon, there is no way that he will get any other work for that day. What will happen to them then?”

“Looks like labourers are simply left to die... some in sewers, some in raging fire incidents and others due to hunger and deprivation,” Mr. Pandit added.

Demanding sufficient compensation from the government for days when poor air quality results in construction bans, 32-year-old Pramod Kumar, a resident of Bihar, said: “Even last year construction work was banned for many days due to air pollution. How are we supposed to sustain ourselves like this? It is not our fault. I want to appeal to the government to consider this aspect and help us.”

Human chain formed

At Okhla industrial area, members of Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU) assembled near Tehkand at 8 a.m. and formed a human chain. While several factories in the area continued to operate, some remained locked, with workers joining the protest. The protesters marched through the industrial area to Harkesh Nagar, sloganeering outside various factories that were open, persuading workers to joining their protest.

Those part of the protest, such as Kapil Kumar (39), an electrician, complained about unfair work conditions such as fewer leaves because of which he couldn't spend any time with his family and unfair work timings. Others such as Suraj Kumar, who works at a steel factory, said that minimum wage was not being implemented at many places. Those implementing minimum wages had increased work timings from eight hours to 12 hours, he alleged.

Pankaj Kumar (34), who worked as a technician at an NTPC thermal power plant which has now been shut, complained about lack of employment opportunities. “Most people who were let go from that plant were above the age of 30. Where are we supposed to get jobs now? No one will hire us,” he said. Workers at the plant had been unfairly employed as contract workers. We realised it was an issue when we were let go," he said.

Trade union members also marched to Shaheed Park at ITO to press for their demands. Rain in the capital affected the turnout in the strike, the workers said.

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Printable version | Jan 23, 2020 8:23:50 AM |

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