Mass worker protests against government ahead of elections in India | National Union of Public and General Employees

Mass worker protests against government ahead of elections in India

“Working people have had enough. Enough of being sidelined, enough of low wages and enough of unfulfilled promises of job creation which put at risk India’s economic development. The global trade union movement stands side-by-side with our sisters and brothers in India.” — Sharan Burrow, General Secretary of ITUC

India (08 Jan. 2019) —Across India workers from all sectors – farmers, teachers, port workers, bankers, electricity and transport workers as well as informal workers such as street vendors and taxi drivers — are taking part in a national general strike.

An International Trade Union Confederation delegation that includes ITUC General Secretary Sharan Burrow and ITUC Asia-Pacific President Felix Anthony is joining a protest action with workers in Gurugram.

“Working people have had enough. Enough of being sidelined, enough of low wages and enough of unfulfilled promises of job creation which put at risk India’s economic development. The global trade union movement stands side-by-side with our sisters and brothers in India,” said Sharan Burrow, General Secretary of ITUC.

Protest held in advance of national elections

The Modi government has come under heavy criticism from a diverse swathe of national figures ahead of the national elections, which are set to be held in April to May 2019. Trade unions denounce moves to introduce new obstacles to collective bargaining, moves towards the privatization of social security, and to make it easier for employers to impose mass retrenchment of workers.

“India’s proud democracy has always sought to bring together its rich diversity of voices and interests and to govern in the interests of the people. This strong tradition is currently being challenged by the actions of a government that has overseen a sustained erosion of labour standards since 2014. Working people cannot continue to be ignored when making decisions that affect them first and foremost," said Burrow.

“Social dialogue is at risk and collective bargaining is being destroyed in India, and without a national minimum wage on which people can live, without jobs and social protection for formal and informal workers, people face greater insecurity.

“Over 90% of working people still operate in India’s mammoth informal sector. Many of these workers are joining unions to have their rights recognized and their conditions improved. The government must be a partner in this effort, yet its measures have created new barriers to formalization and eroded the rights of formal sector workers. Minimum living wages and social protection for all will support working families’ security and build a sustainable economy. The government has left a trail of broken promises in this regard and people have lost hope,” said Burrow.

Attacks on workers rights' jeopardize democracy in region

“India is a test case for democracy in the Asia-Pacific region. Attacks on workers’ rights and labour laws put at risk democratic rights and freedoms across the whole region,” said Felix Anthony, ITUC Asia-Pacific President and General Secretary FTUC (Fiji).

Trade unions are planning further mobilizations over the coming months.


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