INTERNATIONAL TRADE UNION CONFEDERATION
India: mass worker protests against government ahead of elections
Brussels, 7 January 2019 (ITUC OnLine): Trade unions are holding a two day nationwide general strike 8 - 9 January in
opposition to further attacks on working conditions in India. The government is under pressure ahead of elections as
ITUC affiliates CFTUI, HMS, INTUC and SEWA with other unions in India mobilise millions of workers to take to the
streets to voice their discontent.
Workers from all sectors - farmers, teachers, ports, banks, electricity and transport as well as informal workers such
as street vendors and taxi drivers are taking part in the strike.
An ITUC delegation including ITUC General Secretary Sharan Burrow and ITUC Asia Pacific President Felix Anthony are
joining a protest action with workers in Gurugram on 8th January.
“Working people have had enough. Enough of being sidelined, enough of low wages and enough of unfulfilled promises of
job creation which put at risk India’s economic development. The global trade union movement stands side-by-side with
our sisters and brothers in India,” said Sharan Burrow, General Secretary of the ITUC.
The Modi government has come under heavy criticism from a diverse swathe of national figures ahead of the national
elections, which are set to be held in April to May 2019. Trade unions denounce moves to introduce new obstacles to
collective bargaining, towards the privatisation of social security, and to make it easier for employers to impose mass
retrenchment of workers.
“India’s proud democracy has always sought to bring together its rich diversity of voices and interests and to govern in
the interests of the people. This strong tradition is currently being challenged by the actions of a government that has
overseen a sustained erosion of labour standards since 2014. Working people cannot continue to be ignored when making
decisions that affect them first and foremost.
“Social dialogue is at risk and collective bargaining is being destroyed in India, and without a national minimum wage
on which people can live, jobs and social protection for formal and informal workers, people face greater insecurity.
“Over 90% of working people still operate in India’s mammoth informal sector. Many of these workers are joining unions
to have their rights recognised and their conditions improved. The government must be a partner in this effort, yet its
measures have created new barriers to formalisation and eroded the rights of formal sector workers. Minimum living wages
and social protection for all will support working families’ security and build a sustainable economy. The government
has left a trail of broken promises in this regard and people have lost hope,” said Ms. Burrow.
“India is a test case for democracy in the Asia - Pacific region. Attacks on workers’ rights and labour laws put at risk
democratic rights and freedoms across the whole region,” said Felix Anthony, President ITUC Asia Pacific and General
Secretary FTUC (Fiji).
Trade unions are planning further mobilisations over the coming months.