On 20th July, 2018 workers in Delhi carried out a successful strike for their demands, in response to the appeal by various trade unions. Thousands of workers came out on to streets. Work in many industries came to a standstill. A joint committee of AITUC, CITU, INTUC, Hind Mazdoor Sabha, Mazdoor Ekta Committee, TUCC, AICCTU, Seva, UTUC and LPF had together given the call for the protest. Many other trade unions also contributed to making the strike a great success.
The strike was against the severe loot and exploitation of the workers. The minimum wages that were declared by the Delhi Government a year ago, have still not come into effect. Workers get around five to ten thousand rupees monthly, whereas as per the declared minimum wage it should be Rs.13,896. Permanent workers are being removed from their jobs and replaced by contract workers who are given abysmally low wages. For the same type of work, women employees are paid much less than their male counterparts. Workers are made to slog for 12 hours and more each day. Employers are refusing to provide social security to the workers.
Many workers have lost their lives while working in dangerous conditions in various unauthorized factories. Recent accidents that took place in Bawana, Narela, Sultanpuri, Navada, etc. are examples of this. It is not only the owners of these factories but also the government and its various agencies that are responsible for such accidents. They are the ones who are responsible for monitoring and ensuring the safety of workers at the workplace.
Trade unions in Delhi have relentlessly raised these issues of the workers and demanded solutions towards the same from the Delhi government. However, the Delhi government has always turned a deaf ear to these issues.
The proposal for a strike was put forth at a joint meeting of 11 trade unions, held on 7th May. The decision to organise the strike action was taken in the meeting of these trade unions held at AITUC Bhawan on 2nd June.
The trade unions campaigned extensively in various industrial areas after the decision was taken, to ensure the success of the action. Different trade unions took up the responsibility of making the campaign a success in the four zones of Delhi. Mazdoor Ekta Committee and AITUC were responsible for South Delhi, AICCTU for East Delhi, HMS and AIUTUC for West Delhi and CITU for North Delhi. Efforts were made in each zone to include the workers and their various trade unions in the struggle and to form a joint action committee. As part of the campaign, the committees planned their actions on a daily basis and implemented them. Lakhs of leaflets were distributed. Thousands of posters were put up across the city. Hundreds of street corner meetings were held. Travelling tempos with loudspeakers were used for publicity of the campaign. And as a result of the efforts, thousands of workers took part in the action with full enthusiasm.
On the day of the strike, workers from different industrial areas marched together under the joint leadership of the trade unions. Most of the factories in industrial areas like Okhla, Narela, Baadli, Rajasthani Udyog Vihar, Vajirpur, GT Karnal Road, Mangolpuri, Mayapuri, Narayana, Patpadganj, Jhilmil, Friends Colony, etc. were closed. Police arrested many workers in the two industrial areas of Patpadganj and Baadli. The Central Wirehousing Corporation, situated in Ghazipur in East Delhi remained closed. Contract workers of the Indira Gandhi International Airport stood in strike at Mahipalpur, in support the protest. Hundreds of workers of the Delhi Jal Board held a dharna at its Varunalaya headquarters. Construction workers held strikes in 16 different areas. DTC, sweepers, street vendors, domestic workers and Anganwadi workers marched from the Civic Center to the Delhi Secretariat and held a meeting. Similarly workers from Noida and Gaziabad also participated in the strike action.
The action started from four parts in the Okhla industrial area-Okhla Metro station, Tehkhand chowk, siding and Kalkaji depot. Hordes of workers took part in these protest actions and expressed anger against their exploitation and loot. The crowds marched in protest covering the industrial area completely. Groups of striking workers gathered at the BSES power house and came together for a concluding meeting. Mahindra Pal Singh from AITUC, J. P. Dubey from CITU, Dinesh Singh from AICTU, Santosh Kumar from Mazdoor Ekta Committee, Bhaskar from AIUTUC, R. B. Yadav from HMS, Animesh Das from IFTU, Uday Narayan from AICTU, Shambunath Jha from RMS, Rambir Singh from Leather Karigar Sangathan and Balraj from South Delhi Trade Union Association, addressed the meeting. Birju Nayak moderated the meeting. All the speakers criticised the anti-worker polices of the Delhi state government and the Central government. They pledged to take the struggle forward.
The success of the strike just goes to show that the workers of Delhi are ready to take up the fight for their rights. To take this struggle forward the trade unions will have to continue working together as one unit. They will have to work towards establishing permanent joint trade union committees in every industrial area and organize the workers to fight for their rights under a united banner.