Sunday, November 23, 2008

Strike out Strikes!!

Take care of workers and end endless disputes

It is now the turn of television producers to go on strike! In fact, this strike is on account of the pressure tactics that various workers' associations exerted on salary and compensation issues. Without getting into the details of this particular strike, what is interesting to note is that strikes in themselves have gone through a paradigm shift in our country. Not just in terms of numbers, which have been going down, but also that most unconventional sectors are calling upon strikes these days.

It is reported that in the first nine months of 2006, India lost 13.75 million man-days, which led to production-related losses of a staggering Rs 181.82 crore, with West Bengal, invariably, topping the charts. The Economic Survey, 2007, reveals that that year itself, India didn’t work cumulatively for 285 days (all states put together), which eventually led to a loss of 5.64 million man-days, indicating the fall in the number of man-days lost, on account of both strikes and lockouts. To understand the complete perspective, it is also crucial to acknowledge that many lockouts and strikes go unreported and thus, do not form the part of official reportage. Also, there isn’t any doubt that though the trend is dominatingly southwards, but still, way above most of the other developed and developing counterparts. Another interesting facet of the recent strikes is that it is not just prevalent in the conventional industrial sectors like textiles, engineering, chemicals and the likes, but has also effected sectors like banking, hospitality, aviation and entertainment.

No doubt, this change in the character and nomenclature of strikes brings about some interesting and alarming issues. As more and more employment is generated by the services sector, it is natural that both strikes and lock-outs would be more prevalent in this sector, much against its historical precedence. But what is more concerning is the southward movement of strikes. Does that indicate that workers these days are more content then what they were a decade back? Well, looking at various reports of worker exploitation across the country, it can definitely be ruled out that workers are more than content. With whatever little that gets reported in media, it is evident that abuse of worker welfare is not just rampant and blatant across the nation. And in such a scenario when strikes have been increasingly going down, it invariably means that we have become more capitalistic than what we were even a decade back. And mind you, we are just talking about a handful of around 10 million workers who are employed in the organised segment and we are not even referring to those 400 million who are employed in the unorganised segment.

It is not that I’m in favour of strikes: in fact, I’m completely averse to the kind of strikes that occur in India, which are nothing more than a nuisance. But then, it is an imperative to realise that for an economy of our size, it is impotrant to sensitise ourselves with workers welfare. For it is these 450 million who constitute our market and if the corporation keeps on shortchanging them, then in turn they are drilling holes into their own pockets. Also, capitalistic suppression – and that too for prolonged period – does not hold any merit, neither for the employer nor for the employee. If workers are taken care of and are given the right forum to express, then not just we make strikes a history but also never allow a Honda or Cerlikon-Graziano to happen!


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