Action Alert: Please read this then send a letter like the model letter below.

 

After 12 years of legal battle, gas-affected women workers have won their case in the Bhopal Labour Court. As per orders, they are to be regularised, treated at par with other Government workers and paid arrears from April 1998. Also, their monthly salary -- currently less than $40 (Rs. 2000) -- will be increased to Rs. 5000 ($100) as per the orders. However, we fear that the Government of Madhya Pradesh with its track record of insensitivity to the plight of the victims of the 1984 Union Carbide gas disaster, will again impede the deliverance of justice to the women workers by appealing the decision. Any delay would cause tremendous hardship to the women who are already surviving at or below poverty level. Kindly take action by faxing, phoning the bureaucrats listed below, and also circulate this action alert widely to labour activists, women's groups and other human rights or environmental organisations.


ACTION ALERT


Bhopal Women Demand Just Wages, Secure Livelihoods


After more than 12 years of legal battle, women workers belonging to the trade union Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Stationery Karmachari Sangh (Bhopal Gas Affected Women Stationery Workers Association) finally received a verdict in their favour from the Bhopal Labour Court. The Court has directed the State Government to regularise the jobs of the women workers, and pay them at par with Government workers of similar skill and experience. The order takes effect retrospectively from 1998. The women's group has also been at the forefront of the campaign for justice in Bhopal for the survivors of the 1984 Union Carbide disaster.

Given the history of harassment faced by the women at the hands of the State Government, we fear that the Government will impede the implementation of the orders of the labour court by appealing the decision. This would delay justice by several years at a time of serious financial hardship for the women and their families. The women, all of whom, come from poor families have been further impoverished after the disaster. Their meagre earnings have been inadequate even to cover the costs of medical treatment of themselves and their family members. Many of the women are the sole breadwinners in their families with other members too ill to work for a living.

Please write, call or fax the Madhya Pradesh State Government demanding an end to their harassment of the women survivors, and immediate implementation of the Labour Court orders.


Background

The 73 women workers, most of whom suffer serious long-term effects of the poison gases released from Union Carbide's pesticide factory in 1984, have been producing office stationery for the last 16 years at the Stationery
Production Centre -- a Government Printing Press in Bhopal. The Centre was set up by the Government as part of the economic rehabilitation measures for gas-affected women. Interestingly, while all other similar initiatives were shut down by the Government, the Stationery Production Centre has survived till date because of the efforts of the women's independent trade union.

The women survivors at the Centre have been consistently discriminated against by the Madhya Pradesh State Government. Even after 16 years of service, they continue to be treated as unskilled temporary workers. While regular workers in Government Printing Presses doing similar work get about Rs. 5000 ($100) per month, women survivors at the Centre are paid less than Rs. 2000 ($40) per month. The women, including those seriously ill because of the long-term effects of the gas, are denied medical leave, and have no
benefits such as maternity leave or earned leave.

The Court's order requires the Government to to implement its directions by 18 January 2002, and pay the women the arrears (from 1998) that is due to them.

MODEL LETTER TO BE SENT TO MADHYA PRADESH GOVERNMENT

To: The Chief Secretary
Government of Madhya Pradesh
Mantralaya, Ballabh Bhavan
Bhopal, India

Tel : +91 (755) 2551370 or 2551848
Fax : +91 (755) 2551521
Email : cs@vallabh.mp.nic.in

Copy: The Secretary, Ministry of Labour & Parliamentary Affairs, Government of Madhya Pradesh. Fax: +91 (755) 2767332

Sir:

Sub: Implement December 18, 2002 order of Bhopal Labour Court upholding the rights of gas-affected women stationery wokers

This is in reference to the Bhopal Labour Court order of December 18, 2002, directing that the gas-affected women workers from the Stationery Production Centre in Bhopal be regularized retrospectively from April 1998.

It is unfortunate that the women, many of whom suffer serious long-term health effects due to exposure to Union Carbide's poison gases in 1984, have been revictimised by your Government. We are particularly alarmed that the MP Government, which projects itself as a progressive state keen on protecting the interests of women and minorities, is actively engaged in exacerbating the troubles of the gas-affected women.

The Bhopal Labour Court's decision is justice long overdue. Given your Government's callous attitude towards the plight of the survivors, we fear that you will delay the implementation of the Court's decision or impede it by appealing the decision in a higher court. Such an action would represent a gross violation of human and workers' rights.

We appeal to you to immediately implement the orders of the Labour Court, and arrange for the payment of arrears due to the workers without further delay.

Sincerely,

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