SPYF’s appeal on May Day to the workers of Sikkim
International Workers’ Day, International Workers’ Solidarity Day, Labour Day or simply, May Day, carries a history of the struggle of workers for their basic rights and dignity. Last year, the workers of Sikkim had independently observed the May Day. This year, however, owing to the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic, the organization of such an event is […] The post SPYF’s appeal on May Day to the workers of Sikkim appeared first on The Sikkim Chronicle - Sikkim News.
International Workers’ Day, International Workers’ Solidarity Day, Labour Day or simply, May Day, carries a history of the struggle of workers for their basic rights and dignity. Last year, the workers of Sikkim had independently observed the May Day. This year, however, owing to the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic, the organization of such an event is not possible.
WORKERS IN SIKKIM
Due of establishment of dozens of big companies in the last decade or so, the number of workers in Sikkim has increased manifold. However, the condition of workers in Sikkim is one of the worst in the entire country. They are subjected to ruthless exploitation by the management and basic rights are denied. The rights which a worker of other states like West Bengal, Assam, Uttar Pradesh etc ordinarily enjoys, is refused to the workers in Sikkim.
In such a grim backdrop, this day gives an opportunity for the workers and the society at large to analyse, discuss, ponder upon the kind of treatment the workers are meted with. Do they have rights as a worker in the company? Are they working with dignity in their workplace? The recent retrenchment of 13 workers by Cipla, a pharmaceutical company provides a glimpse into the condition that workers are subject to in these private companies. Also, it is an opportunity for us to talk about their condition, their rights, their wages etc.
HISTORY OF MAY DAY
During the industrialization of America, the most ruthless exploitation of the industrial workers caused tremendous discontentment among the workers of that country. On May 1, 1886, more than 3 lakh workers went on an industrial strike and gathered at the Hay Market of Chicago, in demand of a fixed 8-hour working day and humane working conditions in industries. The US police opened fire, killing and injuring many. As a travesty of justice, many workers were arrested and four eventually hung to death in the allegation of causing a riot! In memory of the martyrs of Hay Market workers’ movement, the 1st of May is observed as ‘International Workers’ Solidarity Day’ throughout the world.
WEALTH IS THE FRUITS OF THE LABOUR OF THE WORKERS
The huge profit of industrial owners is amassed by exploiting the labour of their workers. However large the capital, without labour, production and profit is not possible. But the industrial owners refuse to give minimum wage and recognize the rights of the workers to get their means of subsistence and other necessary working conditions like a fixed 8-hour working day. Through a long and sustained struggle, by the middle of 20th century, workers in different countries, all over the world, attained some labour rights like the 8-hour working day, minimum wage, wage increment, job security, workers’ provident fund, gratuity, medical services (ESI) and such other employment benefits. Workers rights had been fully guaranteed in the erstwhile socialist states. The right of the workers to form trade unions, as their own instrument of struggle against the company management, was also a result of this struggle of the workers all over the world.
CONDITION OF WORKERS TODAY
The dismantling of the socialist states by the end of the last century was a setback to the international working-class movement too. With this, the phase of globalization was ushered in, in which the recognition of labour rights started to decline.
The concept of Special Economic Zone (SEZ) arose, in which, in a particular area, no laws defending and protecting the labour rights should be operative. Apart from that, the policy of outsourcing, the system of employing ‘contractual labourers’, who shall do the same work as permanent employees, but shall have no job security, virtually no employment benefits and much less salary compared to the permanent employees, arose. Now, most of the big industries employ very few permanent employees and, side by side, a large number of contractual workers. The exploitation of the contractual or temporary workers has surpassed the pre-1886 days (i.e. May Day). The industrial owners are exploiting the best time of life of the workers, forcing them to work for 10/12 hours a day.
Many vendors, employers are treating the contractual workers virtually as slaves. When there is overproduction, stagnation in the market, or when a worker becomes sick, or when workers refuse to submit to the whims of the management, the employers throw them away from jobs. Many workers, due to utter insecurity of jobs, the drudgery of their work, unhealthy working environment, no increment of salary and extreme insecurity of life, have been becoming mental patients, drug addicts, or even committing suicides.
GOVT. AND POLICE DO NOT ACT NEUTRAL
The workers must understand that this is a class-divided society, and police and the bureaucratic administration is not neutral. Rather, they are inclined towards the capitalist owners, the industrial management. When the investors throw away employees to unemployment and starvation, the police never take any action against the management. But when employees fight for their just demand, the police, at the instance of the management, intervene to disrupt and frustrate the workers, as was done by the US police on 1st May 1886 in Chicago.
The battle of 1st May has shown that against the onslaughts of the capitalist owners, the workers’ only strength lies in their unity. When all the workers in any industry are united, solid as a rock, and when employees of other industries have their solidarity with them, they are strong, they can fight for and achieve their demands. The trade unions of workers is an essential instrument to develop this unity.
DANGER OF OPPORTUNISTIC LEADERS AND POLITICAL PARTIES
Today opportunism in the trade union movement is a danger to workers’ unity and solidarity. In labour movements, many big political parties, funded by different big capitalists have launched their trade unions. These trade unions, left or right, talk of the interest of the workers, but act in the interest of the owners and management.
Managements of different industries also recognize such trade unions, they use these unions as tool to disrupt the workers’ unity and inject opportunism in workers’ movement. The leaders of such trade unions are after name, fame, power and in spite of all slogans of workers’ benefits, they are hand and glove with the management. Thus they are ‘labour aristocrats’ and enemy of the workers. In many cases, the governments are bringing about anti-working class legislation but the pro-government trade unions are remaining silent regarding that, while talking of workers benefits. The recent Labour Law Amendment Bills or Labour Code pending in Parliament is a most draconian anti-working class law. But the labour organisations linked with the ruling party at the Central Government remain silent about that. The workers at large should be conscious to keep the working-class movement free from opportunism, careerism, big party chauvinism and jugglery of ‘labour aristocrats’.
GRIM CONDITION OF WORKERS IN SIKKIM
In Sikkim, the Trade Union Act and Industrial Dispute Act had been notified in 1986 but in the year 2006, it was withdrawn with the plea that, such laws protecting the right of the employees would be fetter to ‘industrialisation’ of the state. Thus virtually the entire state has been converted into a big Special Economic Zone[SEZ]. The Employees Provident Fund Act, Gratuity Act, Employees Service Insurance Act etc. have been operative in this state, but due to absence of any workers’ movement and lack of consciousness, most of the employees don’t get the benefit of these laws. It is positive sign that nowadays workers in different companies in this state have been bursting forth into movements against the whimsical steps of respective managements, time to time.
WORKERS NEED TO FORGE UNITY AND DEVELOP CONSCIOUSNESS
In this backdrop, the 1st May holds tremendous significance. But what is the teaching of this historic May Day? Is it a mere formality to observe this day? On the one hand, the historic May Day urges upon us to build the unity of workers solid as a rock. On the other hand, the historic day teaches that consciousness of the workers is the rock bottom foundation of this unity. The workers should not follow the trade union leaders, blinded by their name, fame, high connections in the administration etc. They must learn how the capitalist system is instrumental in ruthless exploitation of the workers. How different forces are befooling the workers to accept the present state of affairs as fait accompli. Workers’ movements should be freed from petty opportunism, jugglery for mere personal benefit, casteist, communal and regional approaches. It must be made conducive to the broad struggle against the exploitative capitalist system.
Long live the martyrs of May Day movement!
Workers of the world, unite!
By Shanker Sharma, member of Sikkim Progressive Youth Forum.