Our Labour ! Our Strength ! Workers Power Zindabaad !
Labour Day : An Appeal from Jan Sansad
Every year the May Day is celebrated by millions of workers around the world commemorating the the hard earned workers rights after years of struggles. It is a celebration but also a time to remember the victories, defeats and challenges infront of the workers movement even as we move ahead. Workers of the world unite ! The slogan has assumed much importance and the meaning of work and labour has also gone through significant changes over years. Today nearly 93% of the workers are in the unprotected and unorganised sector who are still having to fight for their basic rights : social security, job security, pension, health and education facilities, eight hour working day, mandatory leaves, fair wages, minimum wages, right to unionise and others.
A hard fought right to form independent unions by the workers is under threat and so are other rights in the era of global capital pushing for maximum exploitation of labour and complete privatisation and contractualisation of work in neo liberal reforms era. Millions of agricultural workers, NREGA workers, construction workers, fish workers, forest workers, hawkers, and many other non-traditionally recognised forms of workers remain outside the social security net and face problems with the authorities in forming their own unions across the country. In the same way millions of workers working in manufacturing sector face the same problem most recent being Maruti factory in Gurgaon, Rockman and Satyam in Dehradun and elsewhere.
Various studies, surveys and reports have accepted the fact that this group of workers contributes more than 60% to the GDP. From road construction crews to domestic help, they work long hours for less than the minimum wage, receive no compensation for work-related injuries; and they receive no social security. About 44% of all unorganised urban workers are construction workers but they have no social security or job security, most of them migrants who stream in from remote villages where agriculture can no longer support their growing numbers. It is unfortunate that even though nearly 60% of the population is engaged in the agriculture, fishery and forestry but their total contribution to the GDP has come down to nearly 16%, indicating worst agrarian crisis fuelling large scale farmers suicide and migration.
These issues and others were discussed at Rashtriya Jan Sansad held in New Delhi (March 19 – 23), attended by nearly 7,500 people from 20 States over five days. Member’s of People Parliament agreed that time has to demand rights and justice for the working class people who are running the economy today but remain unprotected and unorganised. Some of the significant resolutions from the discussions on the subject are following :
• The honest producers of this country – workers, artisans, fisher folks, hawkers, and others in unprotected and unorganised sectors continue to be oppressed and often victimised. The 93% of workers who have been denied social security pensions should be given protection equivalent to the organised and secured sectors. There should be access to food, water, shelter etc. to everyone equitably. Every service, every resource or development benefits should be equitably distributed.
• The Provisions for pension must be extended to the 93% workers in the informal and unorganised sector workers, the current provisions are not at all adequate. The inequality in various pension schemes in different states must be removed.
• There should be an end to inequality in the country. The politicians are working only for the interests of a handful of people, not for the interests of the masses. There shouldn’t be a difference of more than 1:10 in the income of the people and a ameeri rekha should be determined. Tax should be levied on property and assets, not on small productions or incomes.
• Right to Unionise is a fundamental right and it must be respected irrespective of the sector, work, etc.
• All forms of forced labour must be stopped effectively. There is need of comprehensive social protection for all unorganised sector workers and fair wages must be given to them. The minimum wages must be raised to a living wage level and it must be ensured that these are remitted on time. Minimum wages should be as such that the whole family is provided for by the income of one. The below poverty line families list should be enumerated by the members of the gram sabha or the electorate of the urban areas.
• There must be provisions for Rain Basera (shelter homes) for daily wagers and migrant workers. The migrant workers in cities who have faced eviction must be duly rehabilitated.
• Under NREGA, work must be provided throughout the year. Corruption must be stopped in NREGA and different pension schemes must be introduced.
• The ambiguities and contradictions in central and state labour laws must be removed. The labourers must be adequately represented in the labour boards.
• The use of machines in PMGSY must be stopped and manual labour be implemented so that the employment can be provided to workers and their skills can also be upgraded.
• There is a need for changes in the hawkers policy and provisions must be made for them to be allotted shops and given rehabilitation as per requirement.
• The domestic workers must be brought under the sexual harassment act and be provided protection and security under various acts.
Many other issues were discussed during the Jan Sansad which will take forward the struggle for the development with justice and equity. The programmes emerging from the Jan Sansad will be carried forward in coming days by the movements and community groups in their regions and areas through struggles, moblisations and advocacy.
On this Mazdoor Diwas on May 1st our constituent groups organise to demand the rights, dignity and security for the 93% of the working force of this country and pave the way forward for a most just and humane society. We hope you all will join us in taking forward the struggle for a life and livelihood of dignity for millions of working class people of the country.
Medha patkar, Prafulla Samantara (Orissa), Sandeep Pandey (Uttar Pradesh), Dr. Sunilam (Madhya Pradesh), Gautam Bandopadhyay (Chattisgarh), Suhas Kolhekar, Vilas Bhongade, Subhash Lomate, Sumit Wajale (Maharashtra), Shaktiman Ghosh (National Hawker Federation), P Chennaiah, Ramakrishna Raju (Andhra Pradesh), Gabriele Dietrich (Tamilnadu), Vimal Bhai (Uttarakhand), Rakesh Rafique, Manish Gupta, Rupesh Verma (Western Uttar Pradesh), Prof. Ajit Jha, Rajendra Ravi, Bhupendra Singh Rawat, Vijayan M J, Madhuresh Kumar (Delhi), Gurwant Singh (Punjab), Anand Mazgaonkar (Gujarat), Mahender Yadav (Patna, Bihar), Nizam Ansari (Bokaro, Jharkhand), Geo Jose (Kerala) and others
(Jan Sansad Coordinating Committee)