On 2nd August, lakhs of workers country-wide under the leadership of the Joint trade unions demonstrated their opposition to the Codes replacing labour laws. The trade unions organised jointly to take out a demonstration from Bank of Baroda in Parliament Street toward the Parliament in the capital city of Delhi. The police stopped the demonstrators at the junction of Jaisingh Marg and Jantar Mantar even as they proceeded towards Parliament. The protestors held a meeting right there.
The central trade unions gave a call for this country-wide protest against the Bills on Code of Wages 2019 and the Code on Occupation Safety, Health and Working Conditions 2019, that the government had tabled in parliament.
Among those who addressed the demonstration were Amarjit Kaur of AITUC, Shivgopal Mishra of Hind Mazdoor Sabha, A.R. Sindhu of CITU, Santosh Kumar of Mazdoor Ekta Committee, R.C.Khuntia of INTUC, Sabina of Indian Journalists Union, Latha of SEWA, R.k.Sharma of AIUTUC, Shatrujit Singh of UTUC, P. Muthu of LPF, Narendra of ICTU, Rajesh of AICCTU and others.
Standing with the speakers who addressed the demonstration were leaders of federations of workers and unions across several sectors of the economy. All of them unanimously condemned the Bills and pointed out that these were a big attack on the working class.
They pointed out that these two Bills would take the place of 17 labour laws that address the wages and working conditions of workers. The Bills ignore all the disputed provisions in these laws. These Bills constrain workers’ rights which will cause grave damage to the working class.
They explained that the 15th Indian Labour Conference (ILC) had recommended a formula and the Supreme Court had directed an additional 25 per cent enhancement in calculating the minimum wages, which both the 45th and 46th ILCs had agreed with. This has been completely disregarded and Rs.4628 a month or Rs.178 a day has been announced by the Labour Minister!
It was explained that Occupational Health, Safety and Working Conditions legislation would be applicable only for those units which employed 10 or more workers, whereas 90 per cent of the workers are in the unorganized sector, on contract or in home-based industry and will not be covered by this Bill. This Bill takes the place of 13 other Bills that were concerned with various sectors of the economy.
These 13 laws had been passed between 1948 and 1996. The purpose of these laws was to regulate the working conditions in these sectors that included workers in sales promotion, workers in mines, beedi workers, construction workers, professional journalists and workers in the press, contract workers, migrant workers, headloaders, etc. These bills had been passed as a consequence of the long struggles of the workers. There had been an effort to take into account the specific conditions of the workers in the various occupations.
The Occupational Health, Safety and Working Conditions Bill 2019, has been deliberately brought in place of these 13 laws, so that the workers would now be deprived of the rights they had won through struggles. This Bill, like the Wage Code Bill has been introduced in the interests of the capitalists. Besides opposing these two Bills, the trade unions and workers expressed their resolute opposition to the attempts of the government to sell the public sector enterprises to capitalists.