May Day was organized by the Garment Labor Union (GLU) on 1st May 2013. This event is an important one as the day recognizes the significant contribution of the workers. The day also reminds the workers about labor rights and other entitlements. A strong message is also sent to the stakeholders, who are involved in the workers struggle and this enables the establishment of a strong network that will protect the worker’s rights. The ultimate aim is to empower the workers to organize themselves, network with the appropriate stakeholders and access their rights and entitlements.
The event is significant for GLU as it is the first May Day organized by them. Around 500 workers gathered on this day. It was organized in collaboration with Centre of Indian Unions (CITU), All India Insurance Employees Association (AIIEA), Bank Employees Federation of India (BEFI), The Akhila Karnataka Government Employees Federation (AKSGEF) and BSNL Employees Union (BSNLEU).
The day began with a rally that started from Town Hall, which is in the heart of the city and the rally passed through all the main roads and ended at Freedom Park near Race Course Road. At the Freedom Park, a public meeting was held.
The rally and the public meeting was attended by garment workers, domestic workers, public sector employees from BHEL & BEML, Central Government employees from BSNL, employees from Life Insurance Corporation, State Government employees, auto drivers from the Auto Drivers Union, Bank Employees etc.
The rally and the public meeting received the much needed media publicity. The event was reported by leading news papers like Kannada Vani and Praja Vani and was telecasted by the television channels like TV 9 and Suvarna News 24×7.
In the public meeting, the following union leaders addressed the workers:
- Umesh K.N, General Secretary, CITU
- Rukmini V.P, President, Garment Labour Union (GLU)
- Geetha, Union Member, All India Insurance Employees Association (AIIEA)
Union leaders from the worker’s union of the State Government and Central Government also addressed the workers.
The workers received information on the following aspects:
- The need for the garment workers to get organized into unions and other social organizations in order to address the issues faced by the garment workers.
- Corruption, bureaucracy and the maladministration that is practiced, both by the State and the Central Governments is a serious concern. Examples such as corruption in the mining sector, price rise, promotion of casteism and communalism, the harmful effects of the neo-liberal economic policies on the workers etc were highlighted.
- The workers were also advised to make judicious choices and vote for the appropriate candidates in the forthcoming Karnataka State elections.
- The workers were educated about the increasing violations of labor rights and nonpayment of the minimum wages to the workers. The aspect that the regular wages of the workers have not been paid was also highlighted.
- Increasing contractorization of jobs
- Neglect by the Government towards appropriate fixing of dearness allowance (DA)
- Government not filling up the vacant posts on time and corruption while doing so is a matter of serious concern as it is depriving jobs for the workers
- Efforts by the Government and the other stakeholders such as the company managements to break the solidarity of the workers are diluting the strength of the unions. They are doing this by making use of the caste, religion, language, cultural and regional differences. Such biases are already ingrained among the masses and these biases are being misused by the Government and the company managements.
The demands put forth by the workers and the unions were the following:
- A common minimum wage of Rs. 10, 000 across India
- Abolishing contract labor
- Equal wages for equal work
- Establish a social security fund for the unorganized workers and provide funds for the same
- Curb price rise
- Resist the neo-liberal economic policies that are detrimental to the workers
The union leaders stressed that such demands must be taken into account by the State and the Central Government and appropriate pro-worker policies must be developed and brought into practice.