At the call of the Construction Workers’ Federation of India (CWFI) around fifteen thousand construction industry workers from all over the country converged to the national capital, marched to the Parliament Street on 5th December 2019 and organized a powerful demonstration holding high red flags, festoons, banners and demand-bearing placards.
It was the culminating action of a three-month long massive signature campaign conducted covering every nook and corner of the country under the banner of ‘Petition to Speaker, Lok Sabha with One Crore mass Signatures’ demanding: Stoppage of repeal of Building and Other Construction Workers (Regulation of Employment and Conditions of Service) Act 1996 (BOCW Act) providing statutory provision of various Social Welfare Schemes like: (a) Pension (b) Accidental Compensation ( c ) House Building Loan/ Assistance (d) Maternity Benefit (e) Children Education Allowance/ Assistance (f) Minor/Major Medical Operation Assistance (g) Safety & Health.
It is important to note that such a huge mobilization in Parliament Street by the workers from a single industry at the call of one single Federation is rare. And such achievement has been possible because of the massive campaign and propaganda activities carried out by Construction Workers Federation of India (CWFI), and its affiliated unions spread over the urban and rural locations of the country. In the course of the campaign, propaganda activities, conventions, rallies, street corner meetings, and of course signature campaign were organized at state capital, district and block levels. Such activities in the states of Haryana, Punjab, Rajasthan, Himachal and Delhi were extraordinary. Obviously participation of workers from the northern states in the march was extraordinary.
Apart from the President, General Secretary and other leaders of Construction Workers Federation of India (CWFI), Tapan Sen, General Secretary, CITU and Members of Parliament E. Kareem, CPI(M) and M. Shanmugam, DMK also addressed the gigantic gathering of the workers.
It is to be noted that crores of construction workers of the country are going to be the worst victims of the Modi Government’s anti-worker policy of bundling-up all the 44 Labour Statues into four ‘Labour Codes’. In course of this retrograde act of the Government, fundamental trade union rights, benefits and facilities including Safety, Health and Social Security are either deleted or diluted substantially. The BOCW Act, 1996 and BOCW Cess Act 1996, which guaranteed the above mentioned benefits, are slated to be repealed and subsumed in two Labour Codes – Labour Code on Occupational Safety, Health and Working Conditions and Labour Code on Social Security and Welfare, in split format resorting to ‘cut and delete or dilute and paste, as the case may be, to satisfy the employers’ class.
Occupational Safety and Social Security protection for construction workers are most crucial because they perform duty in situation full of construction work related safety hazard. Biggest numbers of victims of fatal accidents come from construction industry. Biggest numbers of migrant workers – from village to town, from one state to another state and from one country to another country, come from construction industry. The mindless manner the Government of the day is taking away the safety and social security protection of the construction workers; it is bound to bring nightmare for construction workers centering their lives and livelihood.
A five-member delegation led by the President and General Secretary of CWFI met the Speaker of Lok Sabha and submitted the petition on which mass signatures were collected from all over the country.
The immensely inspiring demonstration of the construction workers in Parliament Street has deepened their motivation and strengthened their resolve to fight the anti-workers policies of the Government, particularly the dismantling of the concerned Labour Laws. These rights and benefits concerning occupational safety, health and social security have been the achievements of long drawn struggle on the streets and sacrifices of the workers in the late 1980s. Such struggles were strengthened by taking up the matter in Parliament including moving ‘Private Members Bill’ by the then MPs of CPI (M) including Comrade Samar Mukherjee.
The immediate encouraging impact this action shall be undoubtedly reflected in the participation of construction workers in the forthcoming nationwide General Strike action called by the joint platform of Central Trade Unions and Industrial Federations.