Saturday, December 9, 2023

Thousands of workers across 18 states gather in Delhi to protest new labour codes

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Thousands of workers carried out a massive rally in national capital region Delhi to dissent against the new Labour Codes passed by Indian parliament on 13 November.

Around five thousand workers, academicians and students from 18 states across India gathered for the demonstration organised by Mazdoor Adhikar Sangharsh Abhiyan (MASA).

The new Labour Codes, namely the Code on Wages, Industrial Relations Code, Social Security Code and the Occupational Safety, Health and Working Conditions Code, are set to replace the existing 29 labour laws soon.

The protesters’ key collective demand is to repeal the new four Labour Codes passed by Indian parliament in 2019 and 2020.

The main concern exhibited is that the new codes pave the way for further privatization of public sectors by allowing exemptions to new industrial establishments.

The right to bonus payment and provision of attaining full wages if the suspension period exceeds 180 days have also been taken away, protesters alleged.

Another important concern is that the code makes it even more difficult for labour unions to exist within organizations and industries in India, they said.

The workers have raised the demand for an end to contractual hiring, provision for permanent and secure employment and a monthly minimum wage of Rs. 26,000, keeping the rising inflation in mind.

Besides speeches, music and dance performances were carried out in the Maidan during a four hour long portest.

Speakers consisted of intellectuals, leaders and representatives from sixteen organizations within MASA. The organisations are All India Workers Council, Grameen Mazdoor Union (Bihar), Indian Council of Trade Unions (ICTU), Indian Federation of Trade Unions (IFTU), IFTU (Sarwahara), Inqlabi Mazdoor Kendra, Inqlabi Mazdoor Kendra Punjab, Jan Sangharsh Manch Haryana, Karnataka Shramika Shakthi, Lal Jhanda Mazdoor Union (Samanvay Samiti), Mazdoor Sahayata Samiti, Mazdoor Sahyog Kendra, New Democratic Labour Front-State Coordination Committee (NDLF SCC Tamilnadu), Socialist Workers Centre (Tamilnadu), Struggling Workers Coordination Centre (SWCC, West Bengal), and Trade Union Centre of India (TUCI).

Workers’ groups from Punjab, Telangana, Tamil Nadu, Punjab, West Bengal and Karnataka showcased local festive dance performances and sang songs about historical workers’ struggles.

Despite permission being granted for the demonstration months ago, the protestors were not allowed to walk to the Rashtrapati Bhawan by the police. They resorted to chakka jam and walked a circle around the Ramlila Maidan.

Slogans such as “Inquilab Zindabad”, “Duniya ke mazdoor ek hai” and “Labour code radd karo” were raised throughout the procession.

A large police force was present at the protest site.

Workers from private sectors of automobile, food-processing, textile and such were present along with workers from the public sector of BSNL, Indian Railways, etc.

Many domestic workers, MNREGA workers and Anganwadi women also joined in.

“After working everyday at their house, what do I get in return? 500 or 1000 rupees, that too with immense cross-questioning and doubt. If I take a 2-day holiday, they will fire me and get someone else to clean and cook. We have no fees or salary. Does this ever happen to rich people in big companies?, a domestic worker from Haryana who came to the protest said to Maktoob.

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