Indian trade unions mark Constitution Day with nationwide strike

India’s Constitution Day on 26 November was met by a nationwide strike participated by millions of workers from different states to protest the government’s anti-labour reforms. The protest, led by the Joint Forum of Ten Central Trade Unions, was the fourth nationwide strike launched by workers this year to oppose the government’s decision to amend the country’s four (4) labour codes. 

BWI affiliates across major states in the country took part in the protests. BWI-Indian Affiliates Council Chair Dr. R.C. Khuntia, who led the strike in Odisha State, was reportedly arrested and later released by the police. 

“We thank all the BWI affiliates in India which were undeterred by the pandemic and came out in big numbers to organise peaceful protests. We will continue to express our strong opposition to the anti-labour and anti-union provisions in the amended labour codes. Our collective and united struggle will continue until workers get their due rights,” Khuntia said. 

The protesting workers are also pushing for a 7-point charter of demands which calls on the government to: 1) withdraw changes it made in the labour and farm laws, 2) cash transfer of INR 7,500 (USD 102) per month to non-income tax paying families, 3) expansion of the employment guarantee program (Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act – MGNREGA) to urban areas and 200 guaranteed days of work a year in rural areas, 4) end privatisation of public sector and stop corporatisation of government-run manufacturing and service entities, 5) free ration of 10 kilograms of rice per month to the needy, 6) withdrawal of a government circular on forced premature retirement, nd 7) scrap the National Pension System and restore the Employees Pension Scheme. 

BWI General Secretary Ambet Yuson sent his solidarity message to the protesting workers on the eve of strike, which was was widely circulated among trade unions. He appealed to the Indian government to refrain from prioritising investments over decent work. Yuson said that being a founding member of the International Labour Organisation (ILO), India should adhere to the ILO’s principles of social justice. 

The BWI affiliates that participated in the nationwide strike were INBCWWF, OFMFPWU, CLU, HKMP, SEWA, UPGMS, DANMU, DSEWU, SGEU, TCTU, TKTMS, APVVU, KSCWCU, AHPWDIPHCWU, HBCMU, BMS and KKNTC.