In May 1886, tens of thousands of workers throughout United States of America came out on street to demand 8 hour working day. 8 hour working day became a norm later not just in America, but also all over the world. Ironically, 134 years later in India, in May 2020, this law which working class struggled for throughout the world is getting dismantled.

It began with UP which suspended major labour laws and introduced a draconian ordinance called Uttar Pradesh Temporary Exemption for Certain Labour Laws Ordinance, 2020, after 8 states including Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Haryana, Odisha, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Bihar and Punjab increased the working hours from 8 to 12 hours in violation of the Factories Act, under the cover of COVID-19. Trade Union Act itself is suspended in UP.The worst scene in this case today is the removal of trade union rights apart from curbing all other rights.

When the present forms of organisation of the working class becomes void, the working class movement itself is going back to where it started. There is no other existing organisational structure today to mediate between the millions of workers, employers and the institutions of the State. This can result in a major set back on even the economic aspects of our production process.The other suspended laws include Industrial Disputes Act, Act on Occupational Safety and Health, Contract Labour Act, Interstate Migrant Labour Act, Equal Remuneration Act, Maternity Benefit Act, etc. This calls for the immediate attention of the women;s groups in India also. A joint statement of ten unions in India has called for a nation wide protest on this issue on May 22, 2020. Please consider this as an urgent request to do whatever you can to strengthen this protest and express solidarity and supp to the struggling workers in this country.

Also read the report in The Hindu “Trade unions to go on strike on May 22 to protest against labour laws suspension”

K.P Sasi is a film maker, cartoonist and film maker


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