Report by a correspondent of Workers Unity Movement
The First of May, 2023 marked the centenary of the first ever May Day celebration in India. Exactly a hundred years ago, workers hoisted the red flag in Chennai (then known as Madras). May Day this year therefore assumed great significance for workers. It marks a century of united struggle of the working class of India for its rights, first against the colonial rulers, and since independence, against the Indian ruling class.
At the behest of the Indian and foreign capitalists, the Tamilnadu government passed a law to increase the length of the working day to 12 hours. The powerful opposition of all sections of workers, and all trade unions, to this anti worker law, forced the government to beat a retreat and withdraw the law. May Day in Tamilnadu was marked by enthusiastic celebrations by workers. Workers resolved to intensify their united struggle for their rights.
The Thozhilalar Ottrumai Iyakkam (Workers Unity Movement) distributed a May Day statement at factory gates, residential colonies of workers, and in meetings and demonstrations of workers.
The statement was distrubuted to workers in the pharma industry, engineering industry, garment factories, factories manufacturing kitchen utensils. The statement was distributed at a public rally organised by Women Workers Union against the 12 hour day. It was distributed to workers of Simpson company, one of the oldest companies in Tamilnadu.
It was distributed amongst workers of the TVS group companies — Brakes India, Sundaram Clayton and Sunderam Fastners — at Padi. A very large number of workers in these companies are youth, kept as apprentices and severely exploited. Leaflets were also distributed amongst workers of Royal Enfield factory and also at Yamaha Technology Park. At Yazaki, a company manufacturing electrical circuits for Automobile industry, leaflets were distributed to the large number of young women and men workers who are mostly kept as trainees and on temporary basis.
Everywhere, the anger amongst workers at the system is palpable. They are looking for an alternative to this system. They are demanding that workers organisations come together on one platform and show the way forward.
On May Day, comrades of Workers Unity Movement (WUM) took part in the May Day meeting held at VHS Hospital gate. Comrade Ramakrishnan, President of the VHS Workers Union, Com Velu, an activist of the Union and Com Baskar of WUM greeted the workers. They recalled the past struggles of the workers. They spoke about the anti-worker Labour codes and other attacks on the rights of workers. They called upon the workers to build and strengthen their unity to fight against these attacks.
WUM activists took part in the May Day gathering of the Rane Engine Valve Workers Union at their Union office.
WUM Comrades took part in the May Day clelebration organised by the All India A.S.L National Aviation Workers’ Union. After hoisting the red flag, Com. P.Ramesh, Secretary of the Union, spoke on the situation prevailing in Air India and ATSL. He pointed to the necessity to strengthen the unity of workers. Com Baskar of WUM explained the objective of WUM and the urgent need to build unity of all the workers of India against the capitalist attacks.
WUM workers took part in the May Day rally and meeting of AITUC and CITU held in the evening at Chengelpet.
In many of the factories, workers expressed their concerns regarding the anti-worker amendment of changing the 8 hour working day to 12 hours. They vehemently opposed this pro-capitalist move of the government. Workers also expressed their opposition to the divisions created amongst the workers. They expressed their deep desire for the entire working class to unite and all workers unions to work with each other on a comradely basis and focus all our energies against the capitalists and their government.
At many of the factory gates, management of the companies tried to prevent activists of the WUM from talking with workers in their factories, outside the factory gates. Capitalist owners, backed by the government, act as if the whole country is their private property. WUM activists boldly rejected these threats and distributed the leaflets to the workers at the gates.
Such behaviour and arrogance of the capitalists, is bringing the urgent need for all trade unions and working class organizations to face such attacks on our fundamental rights by building unity, cutting out the narrow sectarian mindset, which is leading to disunity and only helps the capitalists to intensify their attacks on the working class and its organizations. We can and should think of bringing out common leaflets in defense of the working class and its rights and distribute them widely at each and every factory, defying such threats of the capitalists. Workers Unity Movement is working with this aim of uniting the entire working class and its organizations against the capitalist class.
In Hosur, Kansai Nerolac Workers Union took the initiative and together with Mava Pharma Workers Union, Terex Employees Union, Vegh Industries Workers Union and GE Employees Union jointly organized May Day rally and Meeting. In the rally they demanded complete withdrawal of the 12 hour day labour law amendment and the four labour codes. They called for an end to contract labour and for making workers hired on temporary basis as trainees etc, to be made permanent. All the trade union leaders who took part in the May Day program including Dravida Workers Union of Ashok Leyland Employees Union emphasized the need to build and strengthen the unity of the working class in the entire country.
In Coimbature, COITU, 108 Ambulance workers Union and CWP organized a May Day rally and meeting. Large number of workers took part in this program. Workers demanded that the government withdraw anti-worker 12 hours amendment and the new Labour codes, permanency for all temporary and contract workers, fair wages for all medical staff including 108 Ambulance workers, etc. Meeting called for militant unity of the workers.
Besides cities such as Chennai, Coimbature, Madurai and district headquarters, May Day functions were also held with enthusiastic participation of the industrial and agricultural workers all over Tamilnadu including rural areas.
In Thoothukudi district, on the Thoothukudi – Thiruchendur highway at Uppuvayal thozhilalar residential area, May Day function was held. It was organized by the Unorganized Workers Federation (UWF). Com Krishnamurthi, one of the leaders of UWF presided and conducted the meeting. Many salt pan workers and local working people participated in the May Day meeting. Com Saravana Muthuvel of Tamilnadu Vivasayeegal Sangam also took part in this meeting. Speakers spoke of the history of May Day and paid respects to the martyrs of working class including Com Singaravelar who organized the first May Day meeting in India in 1923 in Chennai. They also demanded the withdrawal of the new labour codes and the 12 hours amendment. Workers took a solemn pledge to step up the struggle for their rights.