Modi govt using COVID-19 crisis to push anti-poor agenda: Trade unions

All major trade unions affiliated to Congress and Left parties have slammed the govt’s move to reportedly amend labours laws mandating 72-hour week days in place of the current 48-hours

Representative Image 
Representative Image

NH Political Bureau

All major trade unions related to the Congress and Left parties have unanimously slammed Modi government for “considering amendment the Factories Act ,1948 to allow 72 hours of work per 6‐day week (12 hours per working day), in place of the existing limit of 48 hours (eight hours per working day). ”

In a joint letter sent to the Minister of Labour and Employment, Santosh Kumar Gangwar, the trade unions said that the government is using the situation arising from the corona-crisis as a pretext to amend the labour laws.

“Present COVID-19 situation is being sought to be utilised to put in place such anti‐worker measure...The projections by the employers’ organizations from various sectors if added, the emerging scenario is grim as the unemployment rate may reach 23.7 percent,” said trade unions.

“Making those available to do more work through amendments to Factories Act exposes your government's total lack of concern to the plight of workers and the livelihood and survival needs of the families. It also displays your concern to ensure extra profits for the corporates at the cost of workers,” reads the letter signed by the Congress-backed INTUC and CPM-backed CITU along with other trade unions.

Talking to NH, leader of the CPI-backed AITUC, Sukumar Dalmle said that the Modi government is trying to undo historical achievement.

“After a lot of struggles and sacrifices, workers achieved the right to work not more than eight-hour in a day. Now, the Modi government wants to reverse the wheel of the time to the industrial era when there was no limit of the exploitation.”

Saying that India is already going through a very serious crisis of unemployment, Damle added, “Instead of increasing working hours, the government should take money from corporates who have amassed unimaginable wealth and distribute them among the poor.”

It is worth mentioning here that The Industrial Relations Code 2019 and the Code on Social Security 2019, seeking reforms in labour laws, had been forwarded to the standing committee by the Lok Sabha Speaker for evaluation and suggestion.

Trade unions attached to the Opposition parties have vehemently these ‘reforms’, following which the government had to move a step back in this regard.

Trade unions have also raised the issue of EPFO funds being diverted to Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Yojna (PMGKY).

“Eyeing this fund of poor workers, built through their contributions, will be unjust and the government should desist from it,” objected the trade unions.

In a report published on April 11, English daily Hindustan Times has claimed the government is mulling over changes in the law to allow 12-hour shifts in factories.

Although the government has not come out with any clear-cut stand on the issue, RSS backed Bhartiya Majdoor Sangh (BMS) called the report as a “propaganda” being fanned by the JNU lobby.

Saying that the Bill seeking reform in labour laws is before the Parliament committee, BMS General Secretary Virjesh Upadhyay said, “Debating labour rights and economy in the times of corona-crisis when people are dying is not less than anti-national activity.”

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