Trade unions call one-day nationwide strike on Nov 26 over labour codes

Trade unions on Friday announced that they will go on a one-day nationwide strike on November 26 to oppose the labour codes approved by the Parliament recently and demanding cash transfer to all non-income tax paying families.

“The labour codes are designed to impose conditions of virtual slavery on the workers, making formation of unions difficult and virtually taking away the right to strike, keeping large sections of unorganised sector workers…out of their ambit,” a draft declaration to be signed by central trade unions in its national convention to be held on Friday stated.

The declaration, to be signed by ten central trade unions added that the government got the three anti-labour codes passed in Parliament most undemocratically, when the Opposition parties were absent.

The unions that have called for a strike include the ones affiliated to either left political parties or the Congress, apart from certain independent unions. The RSS-affiliated Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh was not a part of the national convention.

The unions have demanded a cash transfer of Rs 7,500 a month to all families that do not pay income tax, free ration of 10 kg per head in a month to all the needy, expansion of the Mahatama Gandhi National Rural Employment scheme to cover more days of job, withdrawal of labour codes and farm bills, halt on privatisation, universal pension coverage and withdrawal of “draconian” circular on forced premature retirement of government officials.”

“This convention calls upon the working class to organise joint state, district, industry, sector conventions, physically wherever possible, online otherwise, before the end of October 2020; to conduct an extensive campaign on the adverse impact of the labour codes on the workers down to the grass roots level up to mid November and for the one day country wide general strike on November 26, 2020,” the unions said.

Earlier this week, the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government has notified the three labour codes, passed by the Parliament recently, after securing the nod of President Ram Nath Kovind.

The three codes on – industrial relations, social security and, occupational safety, health and working conditions will subsume 25 labour laws. The codes got approval of the Parliament during the monsoon session when the Opposition organised a boycott to oppose the farm Bills.

The fourth one, code on wages, which combined four labour laws became a law in August 2019. However, the government is yet to make the law effective as it plans to introduce all the four laws together.

Apart from rationalising various provisions of the law and unifying workplace-related definitions, the government has brought about key changes to the labour laws. These include: easier retrenchment norms, flexibility in hiring contract workers, equal social security benefits for fixed-term and permanent staff, social security cover for gig and migrant workers and relaxation to smaller factories from labour laws.

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