by Derek Scarlino/Love and Rage
The largest ever labor demonstration in history, a day-long strike throughout India, sent over 150 million public sector workers into the streets last Friday according to reports from up to ten trade unions within the country. State-run banks, government offices and factories, collectively numbering in the thousands closed down and public transportation was also shut down.
The decision to strike has come in response to Prime Minister Naredna Modi’s economic plans which are pushing for greater privatization within in the Indian economy.
After negotiations with Indian Finance Minister Arun Jaitley broke down, with union leaders rejecting the government’s offer to raise the minimum wage for unskilled workers from 6,396 rupees ($96) a month to 9,100 rupees ($136), the strike was called.
The workers are also demanding that the government not close underperforming factories. Among the other concerns, the workers do not want to see raises on foreign investment caps in some industries or have the government sell off stakes in state-run companies.
Tens of millions of workers are in fear that the neoliberal policies promised by the government which promised “business-friendly reforms” upon election in 2014 will lead to layoffs in a situation with parallels to that which gripped Argentina in 2001, launching mass cooperative occupations of closed factories.
Ramen Pandy, president of the West Bangal Indian Nationa Trade Union Congress, in a comment to Al-Jazzera, said of the strike:
“This strike is against the central government, this strike is for the cause of the working people.”
The unions also said that the government should be providing healthcare and social security to all as well as a minimum wage raise double that which was offered. Commenting on the size and scope of the action, Pandy followed up on earlier statements:
“Our strike will be 100 per cent successful … we will prove that this strike is the world’s largest ever.”