Transport workers in Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru and Kolkata have gone on a two day strike demanding social security and minimum wages of Rs 24,000, reports LiveMint. Uber’s Bengaluru Union told MediaNama that Uber drivers are not participating in the strike, while an Ola drivers’ union from Pune told us that Ola drivers were not participating in the strike across Maharashtra.

The strike has been called by ten central trade unions- Indian National Trade Union, Centre for India Trade Unions, All India Trade Union Congress, Hind Mazdoor Sabha, All India United Trade Union Centre, Trade Union Coordination Centre, Self Employed Women’s Association, All India Central Council of Trade Unions, Labor Progressive Federation, United Trade Union Congress.

The strike is not limited to the transport sector and includes participation from workers in the banking, insurance and telecom sectors as well. In their press release, trade unions said that they have given a call for a countrywide general strike on 8-9 January 2019, “against anti-labor, anti-people and anti-national policies of BJP-led NDA Government, from the National Convention of Workers held on 28th September 2018.”

“Government failed to respond”

The Union said that the government failed to respond, refused dialogue and did not hold an Indian Labor Conference for the last 3.5 years. It claims that

  • It continued an ‘attack’ on the lives and livelihood of the workers
  • Attempts are being made to make pro-employer changes in the labor laws
  • Ignoring the view point of trade unions
  • Usurp funds in welfare boards, in the name of providing “Universal Social Security”
  • The government is attempting to wipe out the concept of regular employment and job security from workplaces through the replacement of workers by apprentices
  • Cabinet is amending the Trade Union Act, 1926 to damage the independent functioning of unions
  • Mass privatization of Public Sector Undertakings, crucial infrastructure and public utilities which targets the ports, airports, telecom and financial sector, is aimed at looting the national assets on one hand, destroying country’s economic base on the other.

It further added that the unions in Banks, Insurances, Post, Telecom, Engineering, Manufacturing, Health, Education, Road Transport, the Central & State Government employees and Auto-Taxi unions have served required notices of strike at their union levels to the appropriate authorities. The union in its press release further added that the unorganised sectors are in preparation for a massive “rasta roko” agitation. 

Previous strikes by cab drivers

  • In October 2018, Uber drivers went on a strike complaining about poor take-home earnings. Uber India approached Bombay High Court asking the court to direct authorities to follow the injunction. The injunction prevents taxi driver owners and associations from stopping drivers on app-based aggregators from doing their jobs.
  • In April 2018, Rajasthan Vahan Chalak Sangathan, the driver Union in Jaipur went on a nine day strike demanding the reinstating of blacklisted drivers and off-roaded cars by cab aggregators.
  • In March 2018, Ola and Uber drivers went on strike across Mumbai, Delhi, Pune, Bengaluru against the poor payouts received from the app-based taxi hailing firms.

The transport sector is hurting

Sneha adds: While the current strike amongst transport workers will not come as a surprise, cab drivers have been demanding fair wages, better hours and reduced commissions from aggregators since Ola and Uber started operations in India in 2011 and 2014 respectively. This is also observed on a global level. Indian regulation has also been playing catch up since the aggregators’ launch, and has only recently addressed things like surge pricing, while the others like driver hours are abiding to the Motor Vehicles Act. While public consultations are great, the government needs to take into account all stakeholders, primarily, the cab drivers, who drive this industry.