Your weekly labour roundup
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Welcome to this week's The Life of Labour!

This newsletter was compiled by Venkat T., Srividya Tadepalli and Thomas Manuel on behalf of The Wire. For more such news, visit our labour section.

Modern-day slavery
The Guardian has a series on slavery as it exists today that covers the abuse of migrant domestic workers in Jordan, an investigation into the abuse of Romanian migrant female farm workers in Italy, a video on rescuing Russian workers held as slaves in brick factories and farms, and a report on murder and slavery in Thailand’s fishing industry.  
Saudi Arabia’s terrible record of human rights continues
Three cases of abuses against Indian workers in Saudi Arabia surfaced in the last two weeks. The first was when Arasukumar, a 30 year-old IT diploma holder, went to Saudi with 29 others but found the job at odds with what they had been promised. When they went to the labour court, they were allegedly locked up by the company and denied food and water. The second case is eerily similar. 29 men were locked for 12 days without food or water for demanding leave to go home. The labour court had ordered that the company give them leave and pay for their travel when they were locked up. They are surviving on the generosity of other Indian labourers.
The third involved Jaswinder Singh, a 56 year-old man, who died in Saudi after fighting for two years to recover his passport and salary dues. He couldn’t pay for his dialysis as his medical insurance had expired and he couldn’t return home. He had been working for the company for 23 years. According to the Hindustan Times, “Thousands of Indian workers have lost their jobs due to slowdown in Saudi economy, caused by both low oil prices and cut in spending by the government.”
Women and night shifts
Three months after the Karnataka government removed restrictions on women working night shifts in any sector, the Ladies Finger reports that “a joint legislature panel thought it important to recommend on 27th March, that IT and BT companies in Bangalore should avoid assigning night shifts to women. Because evidently they can’t stick to decisions. According to the report, this benevolent recommendation is in the interest of ‘women’s safety’ and ‘privacy needs’. Hilariously, Congress MLA NA Harris added that IT and BT companies should hire more…men.”
Unions to organise against Cognizant lay offs
Three sectoral unions in the IT sector have announced a joint campaign against the proposed mass layoff of employees by Cognizant Technologies Solutions. NDLF (New Democratic Labour Front), FITE (Forum for IT Employees) and KPF (Knowledge Professionals Forum) have issued a common statement urging employees not to accept forced resignations while demanding that the company invest in re-skilling employees. Earlier in 2016, NDLF, through a court case, had won a favourable clarification by Tamil Nadu government, that declared that all industrial and labour laws applied to the IT Sector. In that event, workers will be able to challenge the proposed layoffs as an industrial dispute under the Industrial Disputes Act.
Tamil Nadu farmers agitation - hydrocarbons and droughts
Farmers from Neduvasal and adjoining villages of Pudukottai district in Tamil Nadu are protesting against the proposed Hydrocarbon extraction projects in the region. In February 2017, protests had erupted in the area against the extraction of hydrocarbon which was suspended after 22 days with assurances from state government and central ministers that the project will not be approved without local consent. A detailed article on the issues raised by the farmers and the environmental concerns was published in The Wire.
However, on 27th March, the Union Government approved the project, awarding contracts to GEM laboratories to begin work. The farmers have formed a protest committee and have begun their protests.
The protests by Tamil Nadu farmers in New Delhi continued into its third week at Jantar Mantar. Rahul Gandhi, who participated in their protests, demanded that the Prime Minister show respect to the farmers and concede their demands.
Updates on the Maruti Verdict: Solidarity and Support Continues for the Incarcerated Workers
As we mentioned last week, demonstrations marking Bhagat Singh’s martyrdom anniversary became sites of protest against the recent verdict in the Maruti riots case. In Delhi, workers took out a massive rally in support of the convicted and imprisoned workers. They demanded an independent judicial probe into the events of July 18th. In Chennai, in a rally held by AICCTU, the workers demanded the immediate dismissal of the ‘false’ cases foisted against the workers. An international day of protest has been called for by Maruti Workers Unions and supporting organisations on the 4th and 5th of April 2017.
Current workers of Maruti Suzuki raised over 9 lakhs for the wedding of the sister of a jailed worker. They also volunteered to help the family in organising the wedding. Unfortunately, the worker was denied parole for even a few hours to take part in the wedding.
Wage agreement at Tata Motors, Pune
Tata Motors concluded a long pending wage agreement with the workers of their Pune plant introducing a performance-based variable pay scheme. The agreement would enhance the fixed pay of workers by around Rs. 8500/- over 3 years. 10% of the wages of the workers will be linked to performance by the workers. While a number of business newspapers have hailed this as a ‘landmark’ agreement that would improve industrial relations, experience suggests a mixed outcome, with workers having to bear the risks of business downturns. The wage agreement, that comes after 19 months of negotiation, is being implemented with retrospective effect.
In a related development, workers and management of Tata Motors plant at Sanand, Gujarat, remained at loggerheads over their wage agreement. The workers, who had gone on symbolic protests in the past month, have been demanding wage hike to reflect the raising costs and a wage agreement for the next three years. The negotiations are being mediated by the labour conciliation officer. Reports from the management seem to imply that they intend to finalise an agreement on the lines of the Pune agreement.
Other News
“GDP Grows But Job Security Falls: Only 16% Indians Earn Regular Wage”: An excellent article about the casual work and who does it.
The Kashmir Reader reports that, “At least 30,000 teachers appointed under central sponsored scheme, Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) during last ten years remain unpaid for last six to seven months.” Despite being permanent employees, their salary gets delayed and they have to sell possessions in order to survive.
In an incident similar to the two deaths at Anna University in Chenna last year, 5 workers asphyxiated at an aqua food processing plant in Andhra Pradesh. They were cleaning a tank used to store chemicals.
Meanwhile in UP, in a speech delivered on March 26th, CM Adityanath warned that “the state government will not tolerate any laxity in implementation of the government schemes. Officers who are willing to work 18-20 hours daily can continue with the government or else they are free to leave”.
This week also saw municipal sanitation workers protest in Khammam, Andhra Pradesh seeking a hike in their wages and in Chennai against termination of services and demanding induction into permanent staff rolls.
Cab drivers in Karnataka are set to release their own cab aggregator app that will have a fixed rate, and a fleet of about 50,000 cabs. The minimum rate is Rs.12/km for a small car, which drivers say will be a relief from the unrealistically low rates they get paid through Ola or Uber.
The organisers of the Anganwadi workers who were protesting in Karnataka last week have been booked for “causing major traffic disruptions” and violating permit conditions.
An all-female folk quartet in China named Jiu Ye write for and about migrant workers. The musicians have themselves been migrant workers, and continue to work their jobs while they play for little or no money.

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