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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.

Solidarity with farmers cost Pricol Workers a 8 day wage cut

Twelve Pricol workers from Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu, have been on a hunger fast from June 19, demanding that the company repay the eight days worth of wages it docked as a penalty for participating in a one day statewide strike in solidarity with Tamil Nadu farmers. The workers had raised an industrial dispute with the labour department which has not resolved the issue so far. They are demanding that the case be referred to a labour court and been advanced their wage until their company’s actions is adjudicated. An online petition urging the Tamil Nadu government to resolve the issue immediately is also circulating.

Comtrust Workers Win Case to Reopen factory

With the labour tribunal setting aside the closure of the Kozhikode-based Comtrust Weaving Factory in 2009, terming it as ‘abrupt’, the workers have sought the government of Kerala to take over the factory and run it as they believe the management has no interest in continuing the factory. A bill passed by the Kerala assembly is awaiting presidential consent. Union leaders feel, with over 8 years of back wages to be paid, the management will have little incentive to restart production and therefore it will be necessary for the state to step in.

IT Workers in Chennai brainstorm over the way forward for the IT Sector

In a two-day workshop organised by Forum for IT Employees ( FITE), IT employees along with union leaders from other sectors including manufacturing and banking, brainstormed about the roots of the present crisis, the role of automation in restructuring the IT sector, the lack of investment by leading Indian IT majors in research and development leading to stagnation and retrenchment, as well as the floor level issues like harassment, stress and mental health, abuse of appraisal systems and the hurdles for unionisation. The conference resulted in a draft charter of demands that will be published soon.

‘Violence and Repression of Workers on the Rise’: ITUC Global Right Index places India in the five worst countries category

The International Trade Union Confederation’s Global Right Index of 2017 reports that “violence and threats against workers has risen by 10% in just one year”. India’s rating on the index for ‘The World’s Worst Countries for Workers’ is 5 (no guarantee of rights), which is the worst rating on the scale, and shares this position with 34 other countries, including Saudi Arabia, China, Pakistan and Bangladesh.

“The report’s key findings include:

  • Eighty-four countries exclude groups of workers from labour law.
  • Over three quarters of countries deny some or all workers their right to strike.
  • Over three quarters of countries deny some or all workers collective bargaining.
  • Out of 139 countries surveyed, 50 deny or constrain free speech and freedom of assembly.
  • The number of countries in which workers are exposed to physical violence and threats increased by 10 per cent (from 52 to 59 countries) and include Colombia, Egypt, Guatemala, Indonesia and Ukraine.
  • Unionists were murdered in 11 countries, including Bangladesh, Brazil, Colombia, Guatemala, Honduras, Italy, Mauritania, Mexico, Peru, the Philippines and Venezuela.”

Read more.

Eighty Mexican farm workers go missing after reporting abuse

“Late last month, news broke of the disappearance of 80 indigenous Mexican farmworkers who vanished from a farm near Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, after they reported illegal wage deductions for food and housing that cut in half their already desperately low wages.  When the authorities arrived to the farm to investigate the complaint, all 80 workers had disappeared, along with the unidentified recruiter who had originally brought them from the small indigenous town of Camargo.” Read more.

A decade of struggle to enforce a legal right: The struggle of sanitation workers

Recently, contract sanitation workers of the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporatio finally won a Supreme Court judgment ordering the richest municipal corporation in India to confirm their jobs and pay them minimum wages. Having run out of courts to appeal the judgment, the municipal corporation gave in and implemented to order, bringing cheer to sanitation workers across India. But this legal battle was neither easy nor short. In an interview with Swagata Yadavar for India Spend, Milind Ranade, general secretary of the Sanitation Workers’ Union, lays out the history of the struggle and the gains made by the workers.

How do working women make it home at night?

“It’s not only IT companies that neglect their employees’ safety once they’ve finished their work, just their neglect that makes it to the headlines,” writes Ila Ananya. Tracing the ‘night life’ of working woman from the Garment industry of Bengaluru, she lets the first person account of the travails of women working in the night shift, lay bare the anxieties that women suffer due to corporate apathy and the state’s neglect. It also brings out the media’s indifference to issues of working women outside the middle class.

Other news:

Weekend reading:

‘Redneck Revolt Bring Anti-Racist, Anti-Capitalist Politics to Working Class Whites’

“Our gripe with capitalism is it has utterly failed to make the vast majority of people free, because it was never really designed to,” Shaun continued.

“It concentrates wealth in the hands of a small portion of the population, it concentrates power and access to resources in the hands of a small portion of the population, and it leaves the rest of us in a state of variable abjection. It doesn’t work for anybody except the people who are exploiting the rest of us.”

Despite their lack of a prescriptive political ideology, they do have a fairly broad set of principles posted on theirwebsite. They include a rejection of capitalism, and “wars of the rich,” standing against “the nation-state and its forces which protect the bosses and the rich” and standing in “organized defense of our communities.” They declare their belief in the “need for revolution.”

Redneck Revolt’s anti-racist, anti-capitalist message seems to be taking hold in communities across the United States. The organization had just 13 chapters in January but has nearly tripled its chapters nationally in the last 6 months. The group now has 34 different branches, 26 of which are in states that voted for Trump. Multiple chapters have over fifty members.


Writers and Poets Among Singapore’s Migrant Workers

Espanola was among the half-dozen students taking up the front row of the language-school classroom one afternoon recently. The subject was plot. The teacher, a Malaysian-Chinese short-story writer named Kathryn Chua, had assigned them to watch a video of Kurt Vonnegut discussing a plot graph, in which the X axis was the story’s progress (beginning, middle, end) and the Y had “Good fortune” at the top and “Ill fortune” at the bottom.

The Filipina and Indonesian women in this class – who are writing in English, their third or fourth language – grasped Vonnegut’s formula immediately, perhaps because they struggle with where to place themselves on his parabola: far from home and family, but earning enough to give the relatives they left behind a better life than they themselves have known. Phoebe, an eager middle-aged woman in the front row, says the graph will help her better structure the second half of her story: after her main character and her husband suffer a setback, she understands that they then “have to try to recover, and go up, like a staircase.”

Another student worries that her main character may not be such a good person, and wants to know how to make a reader cheer for her; the teacher answers, “Make the antagonist worse!” The women in the class are wonderfully supportive – laughing at each other’s jokes, parrying every self-denigrating remark – particularly compared with the backbiting anxiety that prevails in university creative-writing classes.


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