Elections 2019: ‘Ache Din’ Only Led to Mass Violations of Labour Rights, Say Workers
April 3, 2019
Gearing up for the 2019 elections, All India Central Council of Trade Unions (AICCTU) released a report on violations of labour laws in industrial areas of Delhi along with a 13-point charter of demands of the workers on Tuesday, April 2. While releasing the charter, the members of the Trade Union said that the ‘Achhe Din’ promised by Modi Government has led to mass violations of labour rights and drastic fall in bargaining capacity of workers.
The jolts caused by the anti-worker policies of demonetisation and GST have wreaked havoc on the most marginalised section of workers. Pledging to oust the fascist BJP government at the centre, Santosh Roy, President, AICCTU Delhi said, "The country has witnessed an era of fierce darkness in the last five years- people have been killed on the streets in broad daylight over what they eat and the entire government machinery is deployed for the protection of rioters and those inciting hate. Ambanis and Adanis have got richer, while the masses are suffering because of unemployment and poverty."
Members of AICCTU asserted that the divisive tactics of the ruling BJP have especially targeted the working class, by creating hatred and inciting violence on the lines of religion, caste, region etc. The condition of workers in the country is going from bad to worse, be it inadequate wages, absence of workplace safety, lack of employment opportunities, non- compliance of labour laws and continued assault on labour laws by the Modi government as well as its blatant clampdown on union activities.
Prior to the release of its charter of demands, the Trade Union conducted an extensive survey in 29 industrial zones across Delhi, including the industrial areas of Okhla, Wazirpur and Bawana among others through a questionnaire. Interviews were also conducted across Delhi to understand the situation of the workers better. More specifically, the survey aimed to understand the status of minimum wages, safety in factories, implementation of the labour laws and guidelines.
The team found blatant abuse and violation of labour laws, through a nexus of labour department-police-factory owners and lesser penetration of Trade Unions. An analysis of the conditions of work revealed that most of the workers were not granted any kind of leave and their overtime wages were not being paid. In some cases only ‘single rate’ was being paid and in some cases, attendance was being manipulated to show false compliance. There was no fixed day for monthly payment of salary. Many workers complained about late payment (after 15th of the month). The survey also recorded that cash payment methods are still rampant, as this obliterates employee-employer relationship. With respect to the Minimum Wages Act, it was found that salary slips were not given in most of the cases and there was no consistency in wages, with a major chunk of over 35% workers being paid only Rs.5,000-6,000 per month, while only a limited section of 7% are getting wages close to Rs. 8,000-9,000 per month.
Increase in pending wages was also noted by the report, from approximately 60% in 2011, to 92% in 2016.
The report also shed light on the growing instances of fire and other accidents pointing towards a complete lack of will to implement important labour laws like The Factories Act, 1948. The report found that in case of fire, workers find it difficult to exit the factory as most don’t have alternative exits and are not made in compliance of the provisions given in the Act. Most factories surveyed did not have more than one exit, as mandated in law. The only route for ingress/egress was often locked to stop workers from taking any kind of break and to cover the illegality of practices going on in the premises. Proper ventilation was not present in most of the factories. It was also found that most surveyed workers did not have Employees’ Provident Fund Organisation enrolment and only a few workers are covered under Employees’ State Insurance.
Given the state of workers the following charter of 13 demands was released by the Trade Union:
1. We demand immediate end to the politics of hate and violence. All people/parties engaging in fanning communal violence must be punished as per the laws of the land.
2. We demand generation of dignified employment opportunities through policy level changes, by putting an end to contractualisation, filling of all government posts and creation of new posts.
3. Control price-rise and make affordable and quality housing, transportation, health and education facilities accessible to all workers. Stop house-rent escalation and roll back Delhi Metro fare hikes. Lower the prices of LPG cylinder, petrol-diesel and CNG.
4. The anti-worker revisions in labour laws like- ‘Fixed term employment’, ‘NEEM- National Employability Enhancement Mission’ National Employment Through Apprenticeship Programme’ must be immediately withdrawn.
5. We demand time bound implementation of notified minimum wages in all industrial areas of Delhi, and increasing the minimum wages to Rs 26,000 per month.
6. Proper survey of all factories should be done, and a database prepared for all industrial areas, detailing the number of different kinds of workmen engaged in the respective establishments.
7. Compulsory registration of Trade Unions within 45 days of application, punishment for factory owners engaging in union-busting and victimisation of union activists. Stop attacks on union rights and make laws to ensure necessary recognition of unions by all factory owners.
8. Regular meetings of the officials/concerned minister(s) with Trade Unions to ensure betterment of workers.
9. Strengthening of Labour Department offices, immediate recruitment of inspectors and prompt disposal of cases of labour law violations.
10. Worker friendly and corruption free labour department.
11. Strict enforcement of labour laws, and amendments to increase penal provisions in existing laws.
12. We demand that women workers be given equal employment opportunities and pay. We also demand an end to all discriminatory rules and behaviour that women workers are subjected to, as well as stopping sexual harassment at workplace as per Vishakha Guidelines.
13. Stop harassment of migrant workers, make policy to ensure proper rights and dignity to all workers. Strictly implement laws meant for welfare of migrant workmen.
First published in Newsclick.
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