Central trade unions write to labour minister, demand grievance redressal for workers at the earliest

Central trade unions of India have written a letter addressed to the Union Minister of Labour and Employment highlighting the plight of workers, especially the informal workers in 21-day lockdown.

NH Photo
NH Photo

Satyaki Chakraborty/IPA

Central trade unions of India have written a collective letter addressed to the Union Minister of Labour and Employment, Santosh Gangwar, highlighting the plight of workers, especially the informal workers, in the wake of the coronavirus disease COVID-19 induced 21-day lockdown.

The joint letter has been signed by Indian National Trade Union Congress (INTUC), All India Trade Union Congress (AITUC), Hind Mazdoor Sabha (HMS), Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU), All India United Trade Union Centre (AIUTUC), Trade Union Coordination Centre (TUCC), Self Employed Women's Association (SEWA), All India Central Council of Trade Unions (AICCTU), Labour Progressive Federation (LPF) and United Trade Union Congress (UTUC).

The nationwide stalling of industrial work has already seen a massive exodus of migrant workers from megacities like Delhi, while rendering millions at the mercy of the State. Cut off from their sources of livelihoods, hunger, starvation, homelessness and other vagaries of urban poverty stare them in the face.

The joint letter from the trade unions says it wants to draw the attention of the labour minister to the “complaints/information/grievances being received by us from the workers, employees and our unions from all over India” and seeks immediate intervention by the government.

The trade unions had earlier brought to notice of the Prime Minister in a joint letter the acute plight of workers all over the country, and had demanded “immediate announcement of strong statutory enforceable measures to arrest and put a ban on the ongoing spree of retrenchments, wage cut, forced unpaid leave etc., being perpetrated by the employers on the workers, particularly contract/casual/temporary/fixed term workers in various establishments, particularly in private sector throughout the country to be enforced both by central and state governments”.

The trade unions have now written to the labour ministry highlighting several instances of distress faced by the workers all over the country, including job loss, eviction from local residence and lack of food rations.

The trade unions have emphasized how the state advisory of no retrenchment during the pandemic period has fallen into deaf ears at the ground level, with thousands of workers, particularly the contractual workers and those engaged in the pay-as-you-go gig economy, have been dealt a hard blow because of the Covid-19 induced lockdown.

The letter forefronts how “employees manning essential services run in the public/government sector being stopped and detained by the police, in spite of their holding valid Identity Cards issued by the concerned authorities, the contract/outsourced workers mostly not being provided any protective gear”. It goes on to underline how “even the ASHA and Anganwadi workers, who are working in the frontline in combating Corona are being tortured and manhandled in various states by police and local miscreants with impunity”.

The joint letter also states that “a vast number of workers, not even registered in any of the welfare boards and for whose benefit the Government claims to be putting in place the Social Security Code, suddenly find themselves without work, without any support system to feed them and cut off far away from their native places”.

It goes on to say that reports pouring in from all the states on workers’ services being dispensed with in total disregard of the ‘advisory’ by the Secretary Ministry of Labour and also by Home Secretary have anguished the trade unions, for which they seek an immediate redressal from the government.

It also mentions the need for mobilizing machinery to transport grain supplies from the godowns to various rationing outlets in the States.

It states: “Restriction on inter-state transport movement made the situation difficult further. Hoarding is rampant and the prices of essential commodities are shooting up which is causing further hardship to the working people. We urge you to impress upon the concerned departments to deal with those seeking opportunity in this hour of crisis or being callous to the plight of the masses, by enforcing the message of government advisories, to ensure that everyone has the means to feed himself/herself.”

The letter adds: “Please also ensure that all the unorganized workforce, registered and un registered, the daily/casual/contract/outsourced and piece rated home based workers, agriculture workers, MGNREGA and scheme workers including ASHA, Mid-day meal, Anganwadi and others in such a category, those who are truck drivers and helpers, coolies/porters/loaders unloaders, construction & beedi workers, the domestic workers, waste pickers, self-employed as hawkers-vendors, rickshaw pullers, e-rickshaw/auto/taxi drivers etc. are covered for the cash and ration relief at the earliest. Public Distribution System be used effectively and universally for all these needy people.“

“Opening of procurement centres for the farm produce near to villages and towns could also help the accessibility to the producers and buyers. A comprehensive income-support scheme for all the unorganized/informal sector workers is the urgent need of the hour and we urge the Govt to urgently act upon the same to save overwhelming majority of the country’s workforce from biggest human disaster. Bank branches in some cases are 40 – 50 kilometer from the place of workers/their families, hence the other methods of disbursal of cash transfer should also be devised.”

The signed letter also demanded protective gear PPEs for all medical staff, paramedical personnel and safai karmacharis battling the corona crisis at the helm. While Rs 50 lakh medical insurance has been announced by the government, the letter underlines that the need is met.

Finally, the trade unions request the Labour Minister to keep communication channels with the respective trade unions in various states open so as to better coordinate implementation of the relief work.

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