May Day Statement by the New Trade Union Initiative

Fight for Secure and Safe Jobs by Building UNION POWER Together

May Day Statement by the New Trade Union Initiative

May Day, is the opportunity to assess the state we are in today. The economy continues to grow at
close to a double digit rate each year for some years now and yet:

• Prices continue to rise at a rate faster than the rate of growth hence constantly lowering real wages,
• Income inequality is increasing across the workforce further accentuating the gender wage
• The creation of standard jobs has declined over the years and replaced by an ever-increasing
number of casual, irregular and contract jobs along with growing self-employment,
• A very small minority of workers today work the eight hour day, for others working hours continue
to stretch, not just increasing the hours but also the work intensity,
• The cover of social security is dwindling,
• The fundamental right of workers – the right to form unions – is under severe attack.

The ferocious attack of capital has undermined hard fought gains made by the working class. The
global economic crisis has formed the pretext for granting expanded concessions to capital on one hand
and fiscal contraction on the other thereby intensifying the attack on both real wages and the social
wage. Real wages are being eroded through a sustained inflationary pressure while the social wage is
shrinking through fiscal contraction that has contributed to cuts in both social protection and social

Over the last two decades, by fostering an economy driven by private investment, government has
allowed capital to pursue two objectives virtually unhindered. First, financial liberalisation resulted in
the cheapening of cost of capital allowing for the use of capital intensive technologies. As a result job
creation significantly lagged behind investment resulting in the expansion of surplus labour creating
unprecedented employment insecurity amongst workers. Capital exploited this insecurity by offering
unsafe, casual and most ubiquitously, contract jobs. Second, capital successfully altered the production
process in the direction of flexible production that has included the outsourcing of production and in
sourcing of work which have together driven down wages. As a result even in vast sections of the
formal sector, the legal minimum wage has in fact become the aspirational bargained wage to be
achieved through struggle.

Legislation protecting rights of workers and working people is being violated with impunity and being
challenged, by capital, at every step. This has undermined the collective bargaining power of the
working class. The growth of the economy has been as a result of shrinking of wages in the share of
domestic product and a rapid rise of profits but also as a result of the transfer of savings from the
working class. This has been achieved by undermining the public sector and placing it at the disposal
of the private sector to facilitate the expansion of private capital.

Over these 20 years there has also been a considerable feminisation of the workforce, which though has
brought women to the workforce but more in new sectors and regions, including in government
employment, which is almost necessarily non-standard work. From contributing a large chunk to the
domestic product in category of services as domestic workers and care givers, to being industrial
workers in sectors like garments and electronics, to singularly constituting the largest number of socalled
‘honorary’ workers who provide essential services at poverty wages for government agencies,

women workers today constitute perhaps the most exploited section of the working class.
In the period after general election of 2004 that brought the Congress to government with the critical
support of progressive and secular forces including the working class, legislations such as the NREGA,
the FRA and the Unorganised Workers Social Security Act were passed to meet the basic demands of
working people. These legislations, even with its limited scope and tardy implementation brought the
present government back in power in 2009. Today these programmes stand challenged by corporate
and large farmer lobbies opposing the NREGA, big mining firms opposing the FRA and a persistent
attempt to open the delivery of social security, especially healthcare as it exists, to the private sector.
The fate of rural workers, that still constitute the largest section of the working population, rests
critically on the fate of the sector that is in deep crisis but also on the fact that given the crisis, there is a
move towards reorganising the rural economy through a change in land use. Agricultural and forest
land is being claimed for meeting the needs of global capital. The rural working population that has
almost always been underemployed is now being rendered unemployed. This is contributing to the
reservoir of surplus workers who are willing to work for poverty wages for sustenance.

Large, dynamic and often spontaneous protests are erupting against this policy of ‘development’. The
state has come down heavily on these protests, including on those who support and extend solidarity to
them. Draconian laws, including colonial ones, are being used to crush these movements. In some
parts of the country the right to association has been rendered non-existent. Democratic dissent is
increasingly being viewed as 'anti-national'. Vibrant trade unionism has always provided a critical
support to the democratic rights movement by creating spaces for rational debate and dissent and
securing the right of the working class to representation and collective bargaining. Recent court
judgments against the right of trade unions to strike is a glaring example of the new consensus in
corridors of power, which wants to squash any process of democratisation, and views trade unionism as
a criminal activity requiring paramilitary forces for control. The trade union movement has to resist
this. We will continue to struggle for a democratic society.

And halfway across the world too this struggle goes forward. Over the last six months, democratic
struggles have gained ground in countries of West Asia and North Africa. Democracy has for far too
long been under severe threat through the combined repression of Imperialist forces and repressive
local regimes in this region. Recent developments clearly indicate that progressive change is now
irreversible and has opened the way for a just and democratic resolution to the aspirations of the
Palestinian peoples too. At the base of these movements is the enormous power of the working class in
democratic trade union formations. We salute these movements and extend our solidarity to them. As
the working class has done elsewhere at other times, the working class of West Asia and North Africa
inspires these times. And what we learn from them are the very lessons we learn from our history that a
democratic, united and militant struggle will never be defeated.

This May Day we reaffirm to Build Union Power together to win:

  • An 8 hour Workday
  • A Living Wage indexed to Inflation for all
  • Equal Value for Equal Work
  • A Right to Association
  • Recognition of Trade Unions as Collective Bargaining Agent
  • A Right to Democratic Dissent


New Trade Union Initiative, B-137 Dayanand Colony, First Floor, Lajpat Nagar – IV, New Delhi –110024

Phone: 011-26214538/ 26486931, Fax: 011-26486931, Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., Website: