Together Against Precarious Work

On 18 December 2014, representatives of the Zenroren (Japan), NUMSA (South Africa), FAT (Mexico), CGT (France), UE (USA) and NTUI (India) concluded a 4 day Conference for Safe and Secure Work in Mumbai. Every one of these unions is rooted in the progressive traditions of each of their countries and recognise that militancy and democracy are central to advancing the working class movement. During these 4 days, the 6 unions strengthened their ongoing exchange on each of their experience for unionisation of contract and other irregular workers and their strategies in doing so and resolved to coordinate their strategies.

The discussions focussed on the increasing casualisation and contractualisation of work across sectors and countries being at the heart of the present profit system. This, without doubt, makes some workers far more vulnerable than others. The divide between workers has been institutionalised: between regular and irregular workers with the widening of the existing social division within society, i.e., between migrants and non-migrants, between workers speaking different languages and from different regions and along lines of religion, caste, race and gender. These divisions have caused a fragmentation of workers across the world. Uniting the working class calls upon us to not just address the question of irregular workers but squarely also address social divisions that persist amongst working people. The discussion also focussed on thematic lines: on questions of inequality between regular and irregular workers on issues of wage, social security and social protection, health and safety and freedom of association and collective bargaining. With a collapse of the, howsoever limited, 20th century social contract, there has been an attack on wages that has caused a decline in the share of wages. The ongoing crisis of capitalism has contributed to an attack on jobs and on social security and social protection. Capitalism of today needs irregular workers under exploitative conditions of work to sustain its profitability.

The representatives of the six unions recognised the urgency for unions to consolidate their struggles against these divisions and educate their own membership on need for unity through the sharing of experiences of creative struggles from across the globe to build consciousness. The unions also stressed the importance of focusing on issues of security of jobs and safety of workers in workplace to build a trade union framework for work standards, management practices and corporate accountability to bridge the divide between workers in different countries and especially those of the global north and the south. Albeit in private global corporations, inequality of standards between countries reflects the balance of force and lies at the very core of imperialism. The unions also shared their past experience of joint trade union actions and the critical challenge of being able to translate joint-work into solidarity action and solidarity strikes. The 4 day discussion concluded with a commitment to coordinating efforts to fight contract and irregular work in public services and in the metal industry and to work together on a joint action culminating in a common Day of Action for Safe and Secure Work and for Corporate Accountability in December 2015 as Bhopal Day. All 6 unions agreed that if the fight is to be truly global they must make the collective effort to bring together all other progressive, militant and democratic unions into this alliance and will make the necessary effort toward this end in the coming days.

As the first action together, the vibrant slogans of the 6 unions from across 5 continents in the demonstration of the Mumbai affiliates of NTUI at Azad Maidan on 17 December to celebrate the victory of Kachra Vahatuk Shramik Sangh in winning regularisation for 2700 contract municipal workers in the city of Mumbai demonstrated their collective resolve to fight together against contract, casual and all forms of irregular work across.

22 December 2014, Delhi