An 8 hour workday – which allows 8 hours of rest and 8 hours for ones own life – is the result of hard fought struggles by the workers.
But overthrowing this achievement, the Tamilnadu Government has brought in a Bill seeking to amend working hours, similar to the Karnataka Amendment Act .
That has been a wave of protests in Tamilnadu by trade unions against this Bill.
On 24th April 2023, the government called for a consultation meeting with the trade unions of Tamilnadu. In this consultation the majority of trade unions opposed the bill and demanded that it should be rescinded.
As a result , the TN government has announced that the bill will be held in abeyance. This is a major victory for the trade unions.
LTUC was one of the trade unions opposing this bill.
Vaishnavi from Workers’ Unity spoke to Comrade Bharathi of LTUC to know the detailed reasons for opposing this bill and to find out what transpired in the consultation meeting.
This is what Comrade Bharathi said:
Three ministers from TN, Thiru T. M. Anbarasan Minister for Slum Clearance, E. V. Velu Public Works Minister and C. V. Ganesan Labour Welfare Minister, represented the government in this meeting. Of the three, only Min Velu spoke. He defended the bill strongly, saying, if you work for 4 days, you can get 3 days full rest. This amendment is important for women. We brought it in only for the welfare of workers. Now workers can go on tours and spend more time with their families.
A number of trade unions participated in this meeting, including INTUC, AITUC, CITU, and several others. We participated from LTUC, and gave our opinion on thr Bill and placed our demands on the table.
I said that the provisions of Trade Unions Act 1926, Industrial Establishments Act, Confirmation of Permanent Status Act 1981, Minimum Wages Act are not being implemented. In Sriperumbudur, MNCs and Indian corporates are refusing to implement the provisions of these Acts. When we try to unionise, they refuse to recognise or accept our unions. When this is the scenario with existing laws not being implemented, then extending the working time from 8 hours to 12 hours will only lead to greater exploitation and oppression.
In 2020, in Gujarat, the Court allowed 8 hours working time to be increased to 12 hours, giving the excuse of COVID. This is unconstitutional. The BJP led union government is bringing this type of amendment in all states where they are ruling like MP, UP and Gujarat.
But this government (DMK) talks of upholding social justice and opposing fascism. It has also opposed the four Labour Codes proposed by the Union government. Today they are supporting this Amendment, which is in the interest only of the corporates. This exposes this government as being hand-in-glove with MNCs.
I also said that the founder of this party (Karunanidhi) named his son (Stalin)after being inspired by the Russian revolution. I reminded them of what Marx had said in 1865, that a man’s development depends on his working hours. Excluding time spent on eating and sleeping, if a worker spends the majority of his hours working for the capitalist, then he will become an animal.
Recently, a new law has been enacted in Chile capping the working hours at 40 per week. Let us follow that. Our demand is to rescind this bill now.
This Amendment will not be confined only to specific factories or industries. The business associations of Korean, American, Japanese corporations have been demanding an increase in working hours to 12 hours. With travel time, the time spent by worker on work will go up to 14 hours. And this in a situation where even minimum wages are not being implemented.
Unions raised several demands:
- 8 hours work for 5 days in a week.
- 2 days of rest in a week.
- Minimum wages should be fixed at ₹ 26000.
- Paid menstrual leave should be given to women workers.
- All existing laws that safeguard workers rights, including the Trade Unions Act, should be implemented and enforced.
- All contract workers should be made permanent as had been promised in the election manifesto.
The working class of Tamil Nadu is in the forefront to fight for their rights. Wherever LTUC has a presence, we will continue to raise our voice for the workers.
This proposed amendment will impact all sections, as soon the police and medical staff will also be forced to work for 12 hours.
The people of Tamilnadu are highly agitated. Hence the government should heed them.
(Video transcription By Geeta Charusivam.)
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