One of the most important focus of Fedina is to sensitise the unorganised sector workers to the injustice of exploitation and enable them to organise into Unions. One of the greatest injustices of exploitation is the inequality of wages using the gender bias.
In agriculture and in construction sectors, both men and women are involved in different tasks. However, women workers are treated as lower beings with lower capacities than their male counterparts and paid two thirds to half less. Their work is treated as unskilled and as a light one. Women contribute therefore to greater extraction of surplus value and greater accumulation of capital.
Indian law vs Indian reality
The ILO convention 100 on equal remuneration for men and women workers for work of equal value specifically targets the discriminatory payment of lower wages to women based only on sex. Cultural prejudices, gender stereotyping are deep rooted in society. ILO Convention 111 addresses the question of negative effect on the enjoyment of opportunity or treatment in employment and occupation due to discrimination based on gender.
The Constitution of India in Art.39.d mandates equal pay for equal work for both men and women. While the laws are in place, the capacity to access the law is very low.
In rural areas, the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA), which mandates the payment of equal wages for men and women, has to be used to unionise agricultural workers.
One of the difficulties of unionisation of agricultural workers is the imbalance in supply and demand of agricultural workers.
But NREGA, if implemented seriously, could change the imbalance in favour of demand. This in turn would increase the bargaining power of the agricultural workers and eventually their unionisation. But what of the urban areas ?
Our network wants to promote the laws voted in the challenge of equality of wages between men and women through unionisation. That’s why Fedina is urging and pressurizing authorities to adopt some kind of Employment Guarantee Act for urban areas, specially for slums and migrant population.
It is in this context that the campaign for equality of wages assumes importance. On one hand, it has to address the mindset of the Union members, especially of the women themselves. On the other hand, it has to expose the deliberate attempts of employers and other vested interests, to reinforce the notion of lower status of women in society in order to exploit them. Respecting indian law is respecting indian workers.