On 5 March, unions representing ten national trade union confederations and other independent unions adopted a Workers’ Charter of Demands as part of their campaign to get rid of the populist, pro-business government of Narendra Modi, ITUC reports. Elections have been announced for 11 April – 19 May, and unions have come together under the slogan of #ModiMustGo.
The comprehensive, forty-three point charter sets out a programme for whichever government wins the forthcoming election – a programme which would put workers’ demands ahead of multinational corporate interests. It comes after unprecedented union unity saw 200 million people on strike in January.
The Charter – which was drawn up with the support of ITUC affiliates INTUC, HMS and SEWA – includes workplace-related demands such as raising the minimum wage, abolishing insecure work and expanding social security to cover agricultural and informal sector workers. But it also addresses wider issues such as indexed pensions, support for farmers and an end to privatisation.
And in the year that the global trade union movement is prioritising an ILO Convention against gender-based violence, the Charter also calls for “strict actions against those encouraging/resorting to so-called ‘honour killings’” and “strict punishment … for all guilty of rape and other cases of violence against women in letter and spirit”.
“Indian unions are calling for the ousting of the populist Modi government, and, in the world’s largest democracy, their fight is ours too. A re-elected Modi government in May would heavily favour multinational corporations and further undermine the regulated, formal sector of the Indian labour market. It would increase poverty and unemployment as well as child and forced labour, and a Modi government would continue to refuse to tackle the scourge of violence against women. The unions’ Charter is a comprehensive alternative that would make the economy work for all Indians, rather than a tiny elite,” said ITUC General Secretary Sharan Burrow.
Part of the charge sheet against the Modi government is the way it is “promoting hatred and animosities and encouraging spreading of communal venom by the various communal organisations”. As the joint union Charter correctly asserts, “this is meant to divide the workers and other sections of toiling people, disrupt their unity and weaken their struggles against the neoliberal policies” of the Modi government.
“That’s why the ITUC is backing the Indian unions’ #ModiMustGo campaign and why it is so important that trade unions and other progressive forces around the world back the united Indian trade union movement,” said Burrow.