Trade unions and workers’ organisations all over the country held demonstrations on July 23 to protest against the Essential Defence Services Ordinance (EDSO) 2021.
The EDSO was promulgated on June 30, in the wake of an indefinite strike notice by defence sector workers, against the government’s plans for corporatisation of the Ordnance Factory Board (OFB). The ordinance empowers the central government to prohibit strikes by workers involved in production of defence equipment, services, maintenance and operation of defence establishments. It allows the use of police force to ensure “functioning, safety or maintenance of the essential defence services”. It empowers the management to dismiss workers participating in strikes without any enquiry. A bill to replace the ordinance has been introduced in the Parliament on July 22.
Workers in all the ordnance factories and other defence establishments organized protest actions at their respective workplaces. Government workers and other public sector workers in Rajasthan, Punjab, Chhattisgarh, Kerala, Tamilnadu and many other states came out in support of the defence workers and in opposition to the attack on the right to strike.
In New Delhi, trade unions and workers’ organisations organized a protest demonstration at Jantar Mantar near Parliament – just a short distance away from where the protesting kisans are holding a ‘Kisan Sansad’, as a mark of protest against the anti-kisan laws. The action was organised jointly under the banner of the trade unions – AITUC, CITU, HMS, AIUTUC, AICCTU, UTUC, SEWA, LPF, Mazdoor Ekta Committee (MEC), ICTU, INTUC and TUCC. The protestors carried placards and banners with slogans such as “Down with privatization of PSUs!”, “Down with the attack on the right to strike!”, “Oppose the attack on the right to dissent!”, “Revoke the labour codes!”, and so on. They militantly raised slogans in support of their demands.
Speakers at the demonstration condemned the EDSO 2021 and the blatant attack on the workers’ right to strike. They condemned the steps towards privatization of railways, defence, banks, telecom, insurance and other major enterprises of the public sector, as a step in the interests of the big monopoly capitalists and against the interests of our people. Workers in all public sector enterprises are facing the threat of privatization and all workers are facing increasing attacks on their livelihood and rights, they emphasized, citing the example of the recently passed four labour codes that seek to take away the hard-won rights of workers. They called upon workers in every sector and in all parts of the country to unite in one common struggle to oppose privatization and counter the growing attacks on our livelihood and rights.