Indian workers strike against new 'anti-labour' reforms

Millions of Indian workers go on 24-hour nationwide strike against 'anti-labour' economic reforms

Photo by: AFP
Photo by: AFP

Members of an Indian auto drivers union participate in a protest rally on September 2

Some 150 million workers in India joined a 24-hour strike against Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s economic policies deemed "anti-labour" by the unions.

The workers from banking, manufacturing, construction and coal mining sectors joined the strike organised by ten major unions on Wednesday.

Domestic workers, daily wage labourers and hawkers were also expected to join in a day-long strike to ask for a hike in the minimum wage.

President of Hawker’s Federation, Dharmendra Kumar, said his union wanted a boost in the monthly minimum wage from 4,800 rupees to 15,000 rupees (US$72 to US$226).

"The Modi government has turned a blind eye towards the problems being faced by the labour class," Kumar said at a news conference.

"The government must rethink its labour policies. Modi has made a mockery of us by telling the world to come and manufacture in India because it has the cheapest labour."

After recent talks broke down with Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, ten major unions called for day-long strike over the government’s "pro-business initiatives." 

The unions want the government to abandon economic policies of privatising stakes in state-run companies and of closing unproductive factories.

"We are against these anti-labour policies. The government is going to change the laws to benefit the corporates," secretary of the Indian Trade Union Congress, Gurudas Dasgupta said.

"The changes they want to bring are against the working classes. I am very confident of a hugely successful strike," he told AFP.

The strike were expected to affect financial services as many banks closing their doors for all day. Transportation was also affected by the strike, waiting commuters and school children at stations while passengers were stuck at the airports as taxis could not reach the streets.

Two unions linked to Modi’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party left the strike.

Modi was elected as a president last May, making promises for business-friendly reforms to increase foreign invesment in the country and revive Indian economy, which is Asia’s third-largest.

Investors’ concerns were growing due to the opposition’s blocks for flagship tax and land reforms while the unions were against the reforms.

India’s economy grew less than expected 7.0 percent in the first quarter of the financial year. Experts said they needed the economic reforms to create job opportunities for young people in the country.

In previous strikes, the Indian economy lost millions of dollars and cities were closed.

TRTWorld and agencies