IFTU, Trade Union

IFTU Call on May Day 2017

Long Live May Day                                                                     Uphold the Tradition of Struggle




On May 1, 2017, the working class the world over will be organizing the 131st anniversary of May Day recalling the events that took place at the Hay Market Square in Chicago in the US in the first days of May, 1886. These events eventually lead to the clarion call to the workers of the world by the first Congress of the 2nd International marking May 1 as a day of struggle and class solidarity. On this occasion workers collect together to pledge once again to fight for an egalitarian society “that secures welfare of every human being” as stated by Parsons, one of the four hanged to death for having organized the workers to fight for an eight hour working day. Thus May Day has become a symbol of struggle against the terrible conditions of work and life, against exploitation by capital and for a society free from loot and oppression. May Day,2017 will be held under conditions that are heavily loaded against the working class the world over with myriad forms of attacks on the lives and rights of workers. In our own country this scenario is clearly discernible.


Look at what has been done to the Maruti workers not only by the management and the administration but by the Court as well. The Sessions Court of Gurugram, Haryana on 18th March awarded life imprisonment to 13 workers of whom 12 are office bearers of the union on the charge of killing a manager on 18th July,2012. The other worker is Jiyalal, a Dalit who was at the centre of the dispute on the day the incident took place. It was Jiyalal who was abused by the supervisor in the name of caste and instead of taking action against the latter, Jiyalal was suspended. After negotiations with union leaders the management agreed to withdraw but it did not and on the contrary took steps that lead to whatever happened on 18th July. It is a well known fact that the police went overboard to please the management by heavy deployment, using third degree methods, regularly harassing workers. The present judgement by the court is one which is not based on concrete and sufficient evidence to prove these 13 and other workers guilty of the violent incidents that day. Of the 36 eye witnesses none could furnish any concrete evidence in this regard and yet the court delivered the judgement that is flawed. The judgement seems to have been influenced by the prevailing political environment that is distinctly pro-MNC, pro-corporate, particularly in the industrial areas like Manesar, Gurugram or Noida where normal trade union rights are trampled upon in the MNCs. Here we are reminded of what August Spies, one of the four hanged to death, says about the jury that convicted them, “to convict us by a jury picked out to convict us”. The workers of Maruti have a long history of struggle against inhuman working conditions, work pressure, victimization. It is their assertion of the right to union and the demand to end the contract system that was not palatable to the management and what followed was the repressive response of the management.

While the above is the situation of workers in a wholly owned foreign company we have in our country hundreds of thousands of workers who slog for hours together but are denied not only a decent wage but even a minimum wage. There are those who are supposed to be “temporary” but performing the same duties like the regular workers and yet they are not paid the same wage which is undoubtedly a discriminatory practice that is put to good use by the managements to cut costs of production. Women, contract workers are all subjected to this discriminatory practice despite the existence of a legal principle. The principle of equal pay for equal work is a definite right of the worker but which has not been put to implementation by the various managements nor  the concerned enforcement agency takes steps to get it implemented. The Supreme Court recently  in the State of Punjab vs Jagjit Singh case reiterated the principle of equal pay for equal work when it held that temporary employees would be entitled to draw wages holding the same post. It held that the “principle of equal pay for equal work constitutes a clear and unambiguous right” and is “vested in every employee whether engaged on regular or temporary basis”. This should be seen in the light of the various struggles of the contract workers in the MNCs at a time when the concerned law has been removed altogether from the proposed Labour Code of the Modi Govt.  Workers must ensure that this principle of equal pay for equal work does not remain on paper but is put to implementation.

Workers in the country will be organizing May Day programmes under conditions in which their rights are under constant attack by the managements and the powers that be. While the Modi government is using all means to please foreign capital and the corporate sector here it is continuing to make efforts to effect changes in the labour laws which in essence are an assault on the hard won rights of the workers. This is taking place under the façade of simplifying the labour laws by bringing them under four codes. All these four codes have already been drafted and only need to go through the formalities before the parliament passes. Amalgamating 15 laws like the ESI Act, EPF Act, Maternity Act, Welfare Cess Acts etc, the draft on Code on Social Security and Welfare has been placed in public domain. It is said that already in five sectors like salt making industry, collection of cess has ceased that obviously will have an adverse impact on social security of the workers in these sectors. There is the danger of the same happening in the construction sector.

The attempts of the rulers in the name of acche din is to foist steps that erode workers rights  and therefore in order to protect and defend the rights the need to put up stiff resistance to these attempts is imperative. But this needs the unity of the workers as a class as a whole cutting across sectarian barriers such as the one being fomented by the BJP RSS and their ilk in the name of religion. The Modi Govt. is going all out to ensure that its pro imperialist drive is covered out by communal conspiracies to divide the people and distract them while pushing through anti people policies. The pro imperialist policies are also being driven under the slogan of ‘nationalism’. This May day let us pledge that we will move in struggle to protect our rights, fighting divisive tactics with class unity.

National Committee, Indian federation of Trade Unions.