Trade unions affiliated to various political parties held a rally on Tuesday, International Workers Day, at Azad Maidan in Mumbai, protesting the government’s “anti-labour” policies. Criticising the BJP-led governments at the Centre and various states, labour unions gave a call to members, asking them to “dethrone” the government. Trade unions associated with the Congress, the Shiv Sena and the Communist Party of India (Marxist) participated, while RSS’s Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh was the only major labour union that didn’t join the protest.
The nearly 5,000 workers at the demonstration came from across the state, including Kolhapur, Nashik, Panvel and Mumbai. Unions, including the Trade Union Joint Action Committee, the Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU) affiliated to CPI(M), the Bharatiya Kamgar Sena affiliated to the Shiv Sena, Indian National Trade Union Congress affiliated to the Congress, the Hind Majdoor Sabha and other several labour unions joined the protest.
Suryakant Mahadik, president of the Bharatiya Kamgar Sena, said: “Prime Minister Narendra Modi is working only for a handful of industrialists. The poor and middle classes are unhappy with him. We are not able to keep our money either in the bank or at home,” he said, adding that Tuesday’s protest reminded him of a state-wide bandh called by unions during the Vajpayee regime. “At the time, labour reforms had been proposed and Bal Thackeray had given a call to all labour unions to come together against the reforms. It was successful then. Now too, we should all work together to dethrone the BJP in the coming polls,” added Mahadik.
D L Karad, president of the state unit of CITU, said people had committed a mistake in electing BJP-led governments at the Centre and in Maharashtra in 2014. “We should now remove this government, which is anti-labourers, prepares anti-labour policies, breaks labour movements and divides workers and works only for the corporates. We should remove the current government in 2019,” said Karad, also slamming legislators and ministers for increasing their own payments and pensions.
Sukumar Damle, state president of the All India Trade Union Congress, said, “We should all speak to people to ensure that the government doesn’t return to power next year. Since they haven’t done anything in the last four years, don’t expect anything from them in the next one year.” His statements were reiterated by Jaiprakash Chhajed, state president of the Indian National Trade Union Congress. “Our sea food factory shut down two years ago but we haven’t been given compensation as yet. The case is going on in the labour court. Many contract labourers were also not given salaries for six months,” said Dilip Sharma, a resident of Taloja in Navi Mumbai.