Blood bricks

India: Brick Kiln workers go on strike

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December 10, 2013. Brick kiln workers from 10 brick kilns around Ajmer held a public meeting at Ashok Park, Kaiyad near Ajmer. The workers had served a demand charter on the employers asking for wage hikes across all categories of workers. As the employers did not come for negotiations, the workers decided to go on strike from today itself.

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More than 300 workers from different brick kilns participated in the meeting today. The resolution for strike was supported by all the workers. A committee was formed comprising of workers from all the brick kilns and from different categories of work. The workers then went to the District Collector office in a vehicle rally and gave a memorandum to the District Collector seeking Government intervention. The meeting was also addressed by prominent civil rights and trade union activists from Ajmer and Jaipur.

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The workers have organized under the aegis of Rajasthan Pradesh Int Bhatta Majdoor Union. The Union had undertaken a successful strike last year in the nearby Bhilwara district. The Ajmer strike marks further expansion of Union’s influence in new areas. The ground work for the strike had begun earlier this year when meetings were held in the months of April and May. Then in the rainy season when workers go back home, a series of meetings were organized in the source areas where workers live. The brick kiln workers are from surrounding areas. There is also a significant section of workers from Chhattisgarh state.

The workers will collect again tomorrow. Some employers have indicated willingness to negotiate a solution. If this does not materialize, then the plan is to go around the brick kilns in a procession and ensure complete stoppage of work. It was decided that workers will stop work for three days. If the demands are not met within these three days, workers will go home seeking release from bondage under The Bonded Labor System (Abolition) Act.

- Sudhir Katiyar on behalf of Rajasthan Pradesh Int Bhatta Majdoor Union

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