NEW DELHI, Nov 26: The Indian Journalists Union (IJU) has expressed solidarity with the call given by the South Asian Regional Trade Union Council (SARTUC) to commemorate the Regional Action Day on Thursday and observe ‘decent work for all’, to coincide with the National Day of Action organized by 12 central trade union organizations and independent federations of workers against the anti-labour policies of the government and corporatization and privatization of defence, railways, petroleum, and other key PSUs in India.
The decision was taken at the SARTUC’s virtual executive committee meeting on 15 October. The SARTUC noted that Covid-19 has had devastating effects on hundreds of millions of workers across the world, including the South Asia region, where poverty and inequality is rampant. The abrupt changes in labour market due to the crisis have severely impacted the socioeconomic lives of the workers.
Millions of workers (over 2 million in Afghanistan, 540 million in India, and around 20 million in Pakistan) are experiencing job loss, non-payment of wages, unpaid forced leaves, reduced wages, and deduction of government benefits.
As part of activities planned, the SARTUC is supporting the 12 Indian trade unions and the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC)/ITUC-Asia Pacific’s action plan against the merger of existing 44 labour laws into four labour codes. The affiliates, it was decided, would write to their respective governments to express solidarity for the Indian workers and reach out to respective stakeholders with its charter of demands.
In a statement, IJU President Geetartha Pathak and secretary-general Sabina Inderjit said they couldn’t agree more with the SARTUC’s concerns that instead of addressing the concerns raised by the trade unions, the respective governments, including the government of India, are passing draconian anti-labour laws without discussion or consultation, and coercively restricting trade unions.
The IJU has in fact vociferously objected to the four labour codes, especially the code on occupational safety and health, which subsumes the Working Journalists and Other Newspaper Employees (Conditions of Service) and Miscellaneous Provisions Act, 1955, and the Working Journalist (Fixation of Rates of Wages) Act, 1958, which shall adversely impact the working journalists in the country, and had accordingly held protests and accordingly made a representation to the parliamentary standing committee on labour.
The IJU said it supports the charter of demands as listed by the SARTUC to the respective governments, which includes decent work for all with fair income and job security for workers during and after Covid-19 pandemic; ensuring social security including old-age pension, free healthcare, and unemployment allowance; need-based minimum wage for informal workers be guaranteed; elimination of gender-based discrimination ensuring equal pay for equal work; employers should pay wages for closure of industries, commercial establishments during the lockdown period; reinstatement of retrenched workers due to Covid-19; government should ratify Core Convention 87 and 98 on freedom of association and right to bargain collectively; convention 190 on violence and harassment at work.