INDIA: 150 million of workers protest in a massive National Trade Union strike

In a show of widespread solidarity across India around 150 million workers, including many BWI affiliates, organised a nationwide strike on 2 September 2016. The strike, which was similar to one organised on the same day last year, the Indian Government failed to agree to the labour reforms listed by the Central Trade Unions in their 12-point charter of demands. 

The BWI General Secretary, Ambet Yuson, congratulated the Indian trade unions on their successful strike. “Governments across the world are pursuing economic reforms and vying for foreign investment, resulting in flexible labour market policies that increase the vulnerability of workers. Across the world the global labour movement has taken up this challenge, and we are proud that BWI affiliates in India were at the forefront of these massive nationwide protests against their Government’s oppressive labour policies.” 

The Government made last minute efforts to reach out to trade unions to persuade them to call off the strike, announcing the revision of minimum wages for unskilled workers in central public sector units from INR 246 per day to INR 350 per day (about US$ 140 per month). These changes were however much below the demands set by Unions and were immediately rejected, allowing the strike to proceed. 

The BWI’s Indian affiliates reported huge participation in various demonstrations, rallies, public meetings and media briefings in several Indian states – Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Rajasthan, Bihar, Odisha, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, West Bengal, Uttar Pradesh and Telangana. These activities were widely reported both in print and visual media. 

Participating in a big workers’ rally in Bhubaneshwar (State Capital of Odisha State), BWI World Council Member and President of INBCWF Rama Chandra Khuntia thanked the workers for attending in huge numbers. “The massive strike once again reiterates the growing dissatisfaction brewing among India’s working class against oppressive labour reforms being pursued by this Government. We shall continue to oppose such moves and carry forward the struggle to uphold the rights of millions of workers’ in India”.

In 2011 the Central Trade Unions chalked out a 12-point charter of demands and have since been urging the Government for implementation. The demands include increase in minimum wages, assured pensions, an end to contractualisation in permanent perennial work, equal wage and benefits to contract workers, removal of all ceilings on payment and bonus eligibility, provident fund and increase in the quantum of gratuity, immediate ratification of ILO Conventions C 87 and C 98, an end to labour law amendments and no foreign direct investment in railways, insurance