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Category Archives: Abolition Of Work

C.D.C. Suggests Big Changes to Offices: Temperature Checks and Desk Shields – The New York Times

Posted: June 1, 2020 at 3:21 am

Upon arriving at work, employees should get a temperature and symptom check.

Inside the office, desks should be six feet apart. If that isnt possible, employers should consider erecting plastic shields around desks.

Seating should be barred in common areas.

And face coverings should be worn at all times.

These are among sweeping new recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on the safest way for American employers reopening their offices to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

If followed, the guidelines would lead to a far-reaching remaking of the corporate work experience. They even upend years of advice on commuting, urging people to drive to work by themselves, instead of taking mass transportation or car-pooling, to avoid potential exposure to the virus.

The recommendations run from technical advice on ventilation systems (more open windows are most desirable) to suggested abolition of communal perks like latte makers and snack bins.

Replace high-touch communal items, such as coffee pots, water coolers, and bulk snacks, with alternatives such as prepackaged, single-serving items, the guidelines say.

And some border on the impractical, if not near impossible: Limit use and occupancy of elevators to maintain social distancing of at least 6 feet.

The C.D.C., the nations top public health agency, posted the guidelines on its website as states are beginning to lift their most stringent lockdown orders. Shops, restaurants, beaches and parks are reopening in phases. But white-collar office employees at all levels mostly continue to work from home, able to function effectively with laptops, video conferencing and Slack.

Some of the measures are in keeping with what some employers are already planning, but other employers may simply decide its easier to keep employees working from home.

Companies, surprisingly, dont want to go back to work, said Russell Hancock, president and CEO of Joint Venture Silicon Valley, a nonprofit think tank that studies the region. You will not see the drum beat and hue and cry and rush to get back to the office.

Citing extreme examples like Twitter, which has said it may never return to corporate office space, Mr. Hancock said that he has heard similar things from both Silicon Valley companies and those outside the region. Many are planning to stay safe by thinning who is required to come to work, along with making plans consistent with the C.D.C. guidelines.

Incessant disinfecting of surfaces, cleansing out your HVAC, he said, referring to the ventilation system, opening windows, ventilation, all of those things.

Tracy Wymer, vice president of workplace for Knoll, Inc., a large office-furniture company, who has been in discussions with numerous companies about the safest way to reopen, said he agreed with much of what the C.D.C. was advising but he added that a big part of successful reopening would involve employee compliance.

The biggest factor is on the work force and the personal responsibility they must take in making this reality work, he said.

The C.D.C. addressed that part too, reiterating what has become a kind of national mantra: regular hand washing of at least 20 seconds; no fist bumps or handshakes; no face touching.

The C.D.C. recommended that the isolation for employees should begin before they get to work on their commute. In a stark change from public policy guidelines in the recent past, the agency said individuals should drive to work alone.

Employers should support this effort, the agency said: Offer employees incentives to use forms of transportation that minimize close contact with others, such as offering reimbursement for parking for commuting to work alone or single-occupancy rides.

Smaller companies also have already been discussing how to reopen, some with the kinds of ideas the C.D.C. is recommending. But there are distinctive challenges in many offices. For instance, those that do not have windows that open to the outside, permitting ventilation; have little or no access to outdoor space; or are small and open, with floor plans that were de rigueur just six months ago and now are verboten.

Peter Kimmel, the publisher of FMLink, a publication serving the facilities management industry, said that the C.D.C. guidelines are a good checklist of what needs to be done.

But they also raise numerous questions, he said, including how social distancing will work. This means many fewer workplaces per floor, reducing the density considerably. Where will the remaining workers be housed? Will the furniture work in the new layout? he asked.

Updated May 28, 2020

States are reopening bit by bit. This means that more public spaces are available for use and more and more businesses are being allowed to open again. The federal government is largely leaving the decision up to states, and some state leaders are leaving the decision up to local authorities. Even if you arent being told to stay at home, its still a good idea to limit trips outside and your interaction with other people.

Touching contaminated objects and then infecting ourselves with the germs is not typically how the virus spreads. But it can happen. A number of studies of flu, rhinovirus, coronavirus and other microbes have shown that respiratory illnesses, including the new coronavirus, can spread by touching contaminated surfaces, particularly in places like day care centers, offices and hospitals. But a long chain of events has to happen for the disease to spread that way. The best way to protect yourself from coronavirus whether its surface transmission or close human contact is still social distancing, washing your hands, not touching your face and wearing masks.

Common symptoms include fever, a dry cough, fatigue and difficulty breathing or shortness of breath. Some of these symptoms overlap with those of the flu, making detection difficult, but runny noses and stuffy sinuses are less common. The C.D.C. has also added chills, muscle pain, sore throat, headache and a new loss of the sense of taste or smell as symptoms to look out for. Most people fall ill five to seven days after exposure, but symptoms may appear in as few as two days or as many as 14 days.

If air travel is unavoidable, there are some steps you can take to protect yourself. Most important: Wash your hands often, and stop touching your face. If possible, choose a window seat. A study from Emory University found that during flu season, the safest place to sit on a plane is by a window, as people sitting in window seats had less contact with potentially sick people. Disinfect hard surfaces. When you get to your seat and your hands are clean, use disinfecting wipes to clean the hard surfaces at your seat like the head and arm rest, the seatbelt buckle, the remote, screen, seat back pocket and the tray table. If the seat is hard and nonporous or leather or pleather, you can wipe that down, too. (Using wipes on upholstered seats could lead to a wet seat and spreading of germs rather than killing them.)

More than 40 million people the equivalent of 1 in 4 U.S. workers have filed for unemployment benefits since the pandemic took hold. One in five who were working in February reported losing a job or being furloughed in March or the beginning of April, data from a Federal Reserve survey released on May 14 showed, and that pain was highly concentrated among low earners. Fully 39 percent of former workers living in a household earning $40,000 or less lost work, compared with 13 percent in those making more than $100,000, a Fed official said.

There is an uptick in people reporting symptoms of chilblains, which are painful red or purple lesions that typically appear in the winter on fingers or toes. The lesions are emerging as yet another symptom of infection with the new coronavirus. Chilblains are caused by inflammation in small blood vessels in reaction to cold or damp conditions, but they are usually common in the coldest winter months. Federal health officials do not include toe lesions in the list of coronavirus symptoms, but some dermatologists are pushing for a change, saying so-called Covid toe should be sufficient grounds for testing.

The C.D.C. has recommended that all Americans wear cloth masks if they go out in public. This is a shift in federal guidance reflecting new concerns that the coronavirus is being spread by infected people who have no symptoms. Until now, the C.D.C., like the W.H.O., has advised that ordinary people dont need to wear masks unless they are sick and coughing. Part of the reason was to preserve medical-grade masks for health care workers who desperately need them at a time when they are in continuously short supply. Masks dont replace hand washing and social distancing.

If youve been exposed to the coronavirus or think you have, and have a fever or symptoms like a cough or difficulty breathing, call a doctor. They should give you advice on whether you should be tested, how to get tested, and how to seek medical treatment without potentially infecting or exposing others.

Charity Navigator, which evaluates charities using a numbers-based system, has a running list of nonprofits working in communities affected by the outbreak. You can give blood through the American Red Cross, and World Central Kitchen has stepped in to distribute meals in major cities.

While there are many solutions, these often require substantial thought and a budget that likely doesnt exist, he said.

Mobify, a Vancouver-based company with 40 employees that helps build digital storefronts for major retailers, moved back into its office last week and has already made a number of the changes recommended by the C.D.C. The buildings landlord now requires mask use in the elevator. Other changes the company made on its own.

One person per table. We put arrows on the floor so people will go to the restroom one direction and come out the other, said Igor Faletski, the companys chief executive. No more shared food. Sanitation stations with wipes.

At the same time, he said, there may be a larger force at work: the impulses of the workers themselves.

Since we opened up last week, only five employees have come in, he said. Because the office is quite big, there was room for people to sit in different corners.

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C.D.C. Suggests Big Changes to Offices: Temperature Checks and Desk Shields - The New York Times

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Abolition of worker protection by some states won’t be OKed: Santosh Kumar Gangwar – Economic Times

Posted: at 3:21 am

The complete suspension of labour rights, as done by some states, cannot be termed as labour reforms and would not be accepted in the current form, the labour and employment minister Santosh Kumar Gangwar told ET. Government will provide an amicable environment where a balance is created between the rights of workers and the demands for doing business, he said in an interview to ET. Edited excerpts:

Some BJP-ruled states have taken the ordinance route to exempt all new establishments for three years from labour laws. What is your take on this?The present situation is an unprecedented situation not only in India but across the world. The notifications to increase work hours by 10-odd states or certain exemptions to the provisions of the Factory Act and the Industrial Dispute Act has been done by the state governments as per the powers given to them in the existing statute and they were not required to take any permission from the central government.

We should appreciate that such notifications have been done in light of the urgent situation created by the Covid 19. These seem to be temporary arrangements to get immediate respite from the situation and are not not long term labour reforms.

However, I believe that suspension of labour rights is not labour reforms. To my mind, both industry and worker are two sides of the same coin and the country can progress only if the rights of the workers are protected.

India is pitching itself as an alternate for foreign investors shifting out of China. What kind of a labour regime is the government proposing to offer? Labour and industry are linked with an umbilical cord and is a classic example of a symbiotic relationship. Labour cannot benefit if industry is at loss and similarly industry cannot progress if the labour rights have been compromised and the labour is in distress.

For any industry to grow, we need to provide an amicable environment where a balance is created between the rights of workers and the demands for doing business. We visualise true labour reforms where on one hand we provide wage security, safety and social security to our workers and on the other hand provide a simple, transparent compliance mechanism to the industry so that it is a win- win situation for both worker and industry.

What is the roadmap going forward? The government is already working on a roadmap on labour reforms since 2014. After exhaustive consultation with all stakeholders we have amalgamated all existing central labour laws into four labour codes. The first one i.e. wage code has already been passed by the Parliament and the other three labour codes are at different stages of Parliamentary procedure. I hope these will be passed by the Parliament.

Centre has been for years doing a mammoth exercise on labour codes. Is there a plan to fast-track rolling out of these codes?The Code on Wages has already been passed by the Parliament. The other three labour codes have been introduced in the Parliament and were referred to the parliamentary standing committee. The PSC has given its report on Industrial Relations Code and Occupational Safety, Health and working Conditions Code. We have been examining the recommendations of the PSC with respect to these two codes and the modifications are being carried out. The report of the PSC is awaited with respect to the Social Security Code.

Further, in the backdrop of this crisis, certain modifications have also been deliberated like strengthening the legal provisions with respect to migrant workers and enhancing the ambit of social security for the workers.

The current crisis has brought out the fissures in our social support system for the unorganised labour force and the lack of any data on them. What do you propose to do?Almost all the current labour laws cater to about 8 to 10 crore organised workers only. We need to focus on the 40 crore unorganised workers. This asymmetrical situation has to be rectified. A national database of the unorganised workers along with migrant workers, with complete information on their skill set, is required.

We had initiated the exercise of creating the database of the unorganised workers through Unorganised Workers Identification Number (UWIN) which needs to be pursued vigorously. My key priority would be creating such a database of the unorganised workers and migrant workers in near future which may also have the component of skill set of unorganised workers.

What kind of safety net is the government proposing to bring ?We have introduced a social security code in the Parliament and await a report of the parliamentary standing committee on that. We have been also deliberating in the backdrop of the recent crisis on different ways to bring unorganised workers in the ambit of social security.

Both Centre and state governments are doing their bit to help out these migrant workers. Do you think there is scope to do more to help them at this time?Initially coordinated efforts were made by the central and state governments to arrange for shelter, food, health facilities and provide financial assistance to migrant workers. Many states have done commendable work on this front.

We intended to keep migrant workers at their place to avoid spread of disease in small towns and rural areas. However, when restlessness among the migrant workers increased substantially with increase in the lockdown period, we had arranged safe transport through Shramik special trains and buses.

I believe we could have avoided giving political flavour to the problems of migrant workers. The central government has been working comprehensively on protecting both life and livelihood and has tried to respond effectively to mitigate the issues arising on a day to day basis.

There has been a persistent demand to give cash benefits of Rs 7,500 per month for three months. Is it under consideration and do you think it will help? We intend to provide measures for growth and self-reliant India which even takes advantage of the adverse situation and builds on its strengths. As far as financial assistance is concerned, we started the relief measures by providing financial benefits to various vulnerable target groups in PMGKY.

Factories are facing acute labour shortage. How can you incentivise workers to come back to work?A series of confidence building measures are being taken by the government and industry to bring back the worker to the workplace. We are deliberating upon creation of an electronic database of all the migrant workers along with information on their skill set so that industry can approach them with ease and without contractors or middlemen. This component can be part of our National Career Service Project and this database may be developed in coordination with various state governments.

Millions of workers have either lost jobs or are staring at losing one with two months of lockdown as the industry is reluctant to pay wages. What can be done to sustain jobs?Problem of non-payment of wages has been prominent in the MSME sector. For this sector various measures have already been taken under Atma Nirbhar Bharat including providing a separate credit line for the establishments of this sector. We have believed in making our industry and establishments self-reliant. Other measures may also be considered as and when required in the changing scenario.

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Abolition of worker protection by some states won't be OKed: Santosh Kumar Gangwar - Economic Times

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Abolition of Articles 370, 35A due to PM’s willpower: Nadda – The Rahnuma Daily

Posted: at 3:21 am

New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi with Union Home Minister Amit Shah and BJP Working President J.P. Nadda during the two-day compulsory orientation programme Abhyas Varga organised for all the newly-elected Members of Parliament of BJP in the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha, at Parliament in New Delhi on Aug 3, 2019. (Photo: IANS)

New Delhi, May 30 (IANS)BJP national President JP Nadda on Saturday said that the abolition of Article 370 and 35A of the Constitution last year were the result of Prime Minister Narendra Modis political willpower, adding that many important decisions were taken in the first year of the NDA government in its second term.

He said that this work of abolition of Articles was done by Union Home Minister Amit Shah.

The abolition of the said Articles had done away with the special status of the state of Jammu and Kashmir and special rights of its permanent residents.

Addressing a press conference on the completion of one year of the Modi government in its second term, the BJP leader was asked if they were confident of returning to power again in the 2024 elections.

He said: We do not do politics all the time. We wish to work for the people all the time. Politics is done only during elections. We do not work in the government to return to power. We want to move forward in serving our country, our nation.

Nadda said that even as the entire world was under the threat of novel coronavirus, the situation in India was much in control by the way the country had handled the crisis under the leadership of the Prime Minister.

The BJP leader said that the country was moving forward while focusing on self-reliance and swadeshi.

Nadda said that when the coronavirus lockdown was imposed in March, Indias daily testing capacity was 10,000 while it was now 1.60 lakh. Now, 4.5 lakh PPE kits were getting manufactured in India daily apart from 58,000 ventilators, he added.

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Abolition of Articles 370, 35A due to PM's willpower: Nadda - The Rahnuma Daily

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Beyond the Hashtag: How to Take Anti-Racist Action in Your Life – Teen Vogue

Posted: at 3:21 am

Resources like the Abolitionist Futures conference, the Prison Culture blog, and the African American Intellectual History Society have compiled extensive reading lists on policing, incarceration, and the racism baked into both systems. Other groups, including Critical Resistance, have published documents like an Abolition Organizing Toolkit. And in Minneapolis, MPD150 is a group of local grassroots organizers pushing for the abolition of the citys police department, and it also has a handy zine for frequently asked questions about abolition.

In the current situation in Minneapolis, these efforts can include Freedom Funds like the Minnesota Freedom Fund, which directly supports activists and organizers who are doing work on the ground. The Minnesota Freedom Fund is supporting a movement constellation of formations, according to its Twitter, where they also advise donating to the Black Visions Collective, Reclaim the Block, and Unicorn Riot. And as the Floyd family mourns their loss, you can offer direct support to them through GoFundMe and by supporting the work of groups like MPD150.

Respect the leaders on the ground who have been doing the work and leading the way. As documented by the National Bail Fund Network, freedom and bond funds exist all over the country, and they need support even when police brutality isnt in the headlines.

This is an important national conversation that gets renewed every time another city is seized by racist horror, but good politics start locally. Sign yourself up for a local listserv or organization that is working to create a lasting organizing infrastructure in your community. If you need help getting started, look for local news reports of anti-racist protest actions, find out who is organizing them, and if you can support their ongoing work.

In all conversations, it is crucial that we uplift and center the voices and experiences of the people who are most impacted by these issues. Lift up and listen to people like Tami Sawyer, DaShaun Harrison, Delaney Vandergrift, Clarissa Brooks, Bree Newsome Bass, and many others. Say the names of Black women who often go unheard of and unseen on major news and media platforms, and make room for Black women to speak for themselves.

Name and call out racism, misogynoir, transphobia, homophobia, queerphobia, fatphobia, and white supremacy in all its forms. It may be uncomfortable to confront your parents, your boss, your teacher, or your peers, but thats no excuse not to do it. Fighting oppression is uncomfortable work by its nature, and working to make change in the systems youre already a part of is as important as plugging into conversations about systems you dont interact with regularly.

It is important to be part of building the organizing infrastructure in our communities so that the next time there's another hashtag mourning another death, we already have the playbook to act. We have the leaders and gatekeepers (who do the work) positioned to continue to lead in a sustained way, but they need the support of everyone who wants to see an end to these racist systems.

So many have wanted to shy away from discussing race, but we have to talk about white supremacy. We have to talk about police violence and the surveillance and profiling of Black folks. Until we can truly discuss all of this, we are failing to address the root causes of these issues. Now is not the time to recoil.

We are so tired of trying to prove our humanity. It is time for everyone to step up and act. Respectability, silence, and turning the other cheek to avoid conflict is no longer enough.

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12 Essential Books To Read Following The Death Of George Floyd – British Vogue

Posted: at 3:21 am

Its easy to feel powerless reading the news at the moment, especially when it comes to the issue of racial injustice. But there are ways to help, including signing petitions launched by and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). Another positive step? Educating yourself about the history of systemic racism within America and, indeed, the world. Below, a reading list to help you better understand the context of the protests following the death of George Floyd, a 46-year-old African-American man who died in custody after an officer from the Minneapolis Police Department stood on his neck for eight minutes and 46 seconds.

Numerous quotes by the pioneering activist Angela Davis have gone viral on social media in the wake of George Floyds tragic death but there is far more to be learned from the Black Power icon than can be contained in an Instagram post. Start with Freedom Is A Constant Struggle (2016), which compiles her thoughts and essays on everything from the legacy of Apartheid to the nature of the Ferguson protests and the many ways in which racism has clouded feminist thought through the years.

Structural racism is by no means a problem limited to the US as Reni Eddo-Lodge makes clear in her seminal Why Im No Longer Talking To White People About Race. The title is lifted from Eddo-Lodges own viral blog post from 2014, in which she famously declared that she had had enough of trying to reason with white people who were living a life oblivious to the fact that their skin colour is the norm and all others deviate from it. The full work expands on this concept picking apart the insidious nature of white privilege in minute detail and mapping the ramifications of racial bias in the UK, from slavery through to the lynch mobs that swept across key British cities following the First World War.

A classic of the Civil Rights Movement, The Fire Next Time is divided into two parts: one is a letter written to Baldwins 14-year-old nephew on the 100th anniversary of the abolition of slavery, and the other is a powerful reflection on the authors formative years in Harlem. While it captures Baldwins entirely justified anger at the state of the nation in the 1960s, its also, in many ways, a hopeful and galvanising read. If we and I mean the relatively conscious whites and the relatively conscious blacks, who must, like lovers, insist on, or create, the consciousness of others do not falter in our duty now, we may be able, handful that we are, to end the racial nightmare, and achieve our country, and change the history of the world.

In addition to her powerful novels Salvage the Bones and Sing, Unburied, Sing, National Book Award-winner Jesmyn Ward is also the author of a gut-wrenching memoir, Men We Reaped, which recounts the deaths of five young black men in her life over as many years men pinioned beneath poverty and history and racism. The title is a nod to a verse written by abolitionist Harriet Tubman following a Civil War battle in which countless African-American soldiers died: We heard the thunder and that was the big guns; and then we heard the rain falling and that was the blood falling; and when we came to get in the crops, it was dead men that we reaped.

As a reporter for The Washington Post, Wesley Lowery spent much of President Obamas second term in office travelling from city to city, covering the deaths of unarmed black men at the hands of white police officers, including Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, and Freddie Gray. They Cant Kill Us All begins with his own aggressive arrest during the Ferguson protests after allegedly failing to disperse quickly enough when police officers cleared out a McDonalds then goes on to recount the evolution of the Black Lives Matter movement from the front lines. In short, its essential reading right now.

Written by a United Nations diplomat turned Indian National Congress MP in New Delhi, Inglorious Empire firmly discounts any romantic notions of colonisation in taking India as its subject. Published in the immediate aftermath of Brexit, it documents the systematic subjugation of a country whose share of the world economy at the start of the 18th century was 23 per cent, a figure which had plummeted to 3 per cent by the time the British left. As Britain reassesses its imperial fantasies, this book is an urgent read.

Toni Morrisons Pulitzer Prize-winning masterpiece encapsulates the collective, refracted trauma felt by slaves and their descendants. Inspired by a true story reported in the American Baptist in 1856, the novel centres on Sethe, a slave mother who has ostensibly escaped from the fictional Sweet Home plantation to live in the free state of Ohio, but is haunted, literally and metaphorically, by the ghosts of her tragic past. As she says, Freeing yourself was one thing, claiming ownership of that freed self was another. Consider it a testament to the power of the novel form, and a lesson in radical empathy.

As Ava DuVernay pointed out in her brilliant documentary 13th (now available to stream on Netflix), the American Constitutions 13th Amendment outlaws slavery except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted. Civil rights lawyer Michelle Alexander reflects on the many ways in which this loophole has been exploited tracing how and why the number of prisoners in America rose from roughly 300,000 to more than 2 million between the 1980s and 2010. Her central thesis: that the so-called war on drugs launched by President Reagan ultimately emerged as a stunningly comprehensive and well-designed system of racialised social control that functions in a manner strikingly similar to Jim Crow. Note: at the close of 2019, a staggering 4.7 per cent of all black millennial men in the US were incarcerated, according to research conducted by The Stanford Center on Poverty and Inequality.

I write you in your fifteenth year, Ta-Nehisi Coates notes at the beginning of this extended letter to his son. I am writing you because this was the year you saw Eric Garner choked to death for selling cigarettes; because you know now that Renisha McBride was shot for seeking help, that John Crawford was shot down for browsing in a department store. And you have seen men in uniform drive by and murder Tamir Rice, a 12-year-old child whom they were oath-bound to protect. And you have seen men in the same uniforms pummel Marlene Pinnock, someones grandmother, on the side of the road. And you know now, if you did not before, that the police departments of your country have been endowed with the authority to destroy your body. What follows this heartbreaking declaration is a nuanced analysis of racisms centrality to American life and, critically, a study of the development of the fictional notion of whiteness.

Edited by the British journalist Nikesh Shukla, this crowdfunded book of essays includes submissions from Reni Eddo-Lodge, Riz Ahmed, and Vinay Patel, amongst others, with unique perspectives on deeply ingrained racist attitudes in the UK. Sparked by a comment underneath one of his articles on the Guardian, Shukla was inspired to write a progressive book about race issues in Britain. I was sick of the assumption that whenever people of colour get an opportunity its not because of our skill or merit, he has said, of conceiving of the project. Centring on the binary that a good immigrant is symbolised by a BAME-background Olympic gold medallist, and a bad immigrant is written off as a benefits-scrounger, the book, which Shukla describes as a document of what it means to be a person of colour now, explores the constant anxiety at the heart of the immigrant experience.

Of all the millions transported from Africa to the Americas, only one man is left. He is called Cudjo Lewis and is living at present at Plateau, Alabama, a suburb of Mobile. This is the story of this Cudjo. So begins Zora Neale Hurstons Barracoon, a compilation of interviews between the author of Their Eyes Were Watching God and the last known survivor of the Middle Passage in 1927. Interwoven with Cudjos own story preserved in his lyrical dialect are Hurstons endearing reports of trying to get him to speak to her: appearing on his doorstep with baskets of Georgia peaches and a box of Bee Brand insect powder to get rid of mosquitoes. A phenomenally important and deeply rewarding book.

I am not free while any woman is unfree, even when her shackles are very different from my own, declared Audre Lorde during a keynote talk in Connecticut in 1981. And I am not free as long as one person of colour remains chained. Nor is any one of you. Every work by the self-proclaimed black, lesbian, mother, warrior, poet deserves to be read more than once but this compilation of her greatest speeches and writings is a powerful introduction to this revolutionary voice.

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12 Essential Books To Read Following The Death Of George Floyd - British Vogue

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Rethinking Migration and the Informal Indian Economy In the Time of a Pandemic – The Wire

Posted: at 3:21 am

Barring abnormal times, which includes current circumstances, the major part of the migrant labour flows in India has mostly been from rural to urban areas.

As senior journalist P Sainath has noted, these include categories of people who migrate on a permanent basis (having no plan to return), seasonal migrants (who temporarily return from urban areas to their villages during times of harvest and then go back to urban centres) and finally, the footloose (hired from rural areas by contractors) who move from city to city in search of work and without a final destination.

This usual pattern of migration, which pushes people from rural to urban areas can be described as mobility by default. The reasons behind this include growing rural distress with agriculture and inadequate official policies to support the ailing rural economy. The unsustainable livelihoods started a continuing stream of out-migration from the rural economy, both seasonal and as footloose. Migration also was facilitated by the prevailing familial links between the rural folks and the urban workmen.

Reverse migration from urban to rural

The current flow of reverse migration in India, which is from urban to rural, however, falls into none of the above categories describing the usual patterns in the movements from rural to urban centres. The enormity and suddenness, along with the misery of the people trying to leave urban centres for bare survival, opens up several issues.

However, it will be an understatement to conclude that the inflow of migrants to urban economies had no impact on the latter. The flow provided a reserve army of cheap labour waiting to be hired at wages which could dip lower than the statutory minimum, especially after meeting the demands of the contractor. Jobs provided did not entail further obligations on part of the employers or the state, given that the footloose migrants never had any legal status as working population.

With the formal organised industry employing as many as one half or more of employees with a casual or informal status, it proved rather opportune for enterprises in factories, construction sites and other labour-intensive activities to make use of the migrants in their cost-cutting exercises. Remaining migrants, not absorbed in the formal or informal work-places, continued as self-employed in capacities ranging from vendors to shop-keepers at low levels of remunerations. On the whole, presence of the rural migrants benefited the urban economy by providing cheap labour to factories and cheap services to households.

Passive role of the Indian state in relation to migrant labour

The lukewarm responses of the state to above can be evidenced from the large number of related legislations that exist merely on paper. There is the Contract Labor Regulation and Abolition Act 1970, which conferred casual labor with a legal status by providing a mechanism for registration of contractors engaging 20 or more workers. Failing registration, the employer was directly responsible for the employment provided. One can also mention the Inter-state Migrant Workmen Act 1979, the National Disaster Management Act 2005 and the Street Vendors Act, 2014 to regulate street vendors in public areas and protect their rights. More recently ,the Code on Occupation, Health, Safety and Working Conditions, sought to regulate health and safety conditions of workers in establishments with 10 or more workers, and replace the 13 prevailing labour laws. The Code was referred to a Standing Committee of the Parliament in July 2019 which responded positively on a date as recent as February 11, 2020.

Pieces of legislation as above provide an idea as to how those were of no relevance in addressing the current crisis faced by the migrants thrown out from the urban centres, indicative of a minimalist state in the process.

One can raise questions as to what happened to the legal status of migrants as under the Act of 1970? Where are the registered contractors or employers who are responsible for employment status of the migrants in terms of the same law? Also, what happened to the various laws still operative till the Code was to replace those in early 2020? It is thus more than obvious that none of the so-called corrective measures were of any significance in relation to what the migrants have been experiencing since the lockdown began in March this year.

Pro-active role of state to safeguard interests of capital

Reflecting the close alliance between big capital and the ruling state, one witnesses the inclinations in official policies to protect the interests of big capital. An early measure include an advocacy, in the National Commission of Labour (2002), of flexible labour as a panacea for achieving efficient growth. This sanctioned casualization to restore the cost-cutting and wage-productivity nexus. As for the unorganized sector, the Commission advocated social security to be provided by both employers and the state. A few years later this was followed up by the National Commission on Enterprises in the Unorganized Sector (NCEUS) 2006 which recommended a number of measures for the unorganised workers which addressed the low wages (or earnings) and unequal bargaining power. The NCEUS Report was folded up and recommendations ignored, an action which contrasts the pro-active official role vis a vis the employers as at present.

Employers, supported by state-level ordinances, unite to further weaken the prevailing labour protection.

At least four states in India, including UP, MP, Rajasthan and also Assam have initiated a process of further downgrading labour rights by passing Ordinances which scraps important labour rights still enjoyed by the regular (ie, not casual) workers in the formal sector. For UP, the measures include the scrapping of all existing labour laws for next three years. In Gujarat, new manufacturing units are to be exempt from the current labour laws over next 1200 days. Rajasthan also follows suit in abrogating prevailing labour laws in the state. In addition, the Ordinances introduce new rules for working hours by changing the prevailing 8 hour norm to 12 hours per day. As implemented, the change will take away the much struggled labour right achieved by the working class of the world more than two centuries back.

To top it off, the Ordinances ensure that workers will no longer get overtime even if they continue to work beyond the stipulated 12 hour day.

Arguments have been advanced by the corporate industry in support of the Ordinances. Those concern the prevailing tendencies for small firms to avoid expansions in order to evade the labour regulations as relate to the large ones. Removal of such restrictions would, as have been argued, encourage the small ones to expand. Also the measures, as claimed, would attract investment by making it easier to manage and cheaper to engage labour. Using the same argument, industry expects that by improving the competitive capacity, India would successfully entice foreign investors away from China. Finally, and rather unbelievably, industry also expects that stretching working hours to the 12 hour norm will be labour-saving and as such will be of help in situations where labour is in short supply. It sounds strange to hear about labour shortage in a labour surplus country like India today! Are they fearing the loss of cheap sources of labour with the decimation of workers as they try the route to their villages in the reverse flow of migrants?

One may just question here if industry in states mentioned above are right in claiming that the measures would be able to generate a favourable investment climate by scratching the few labour rights as still prevail in India? While engaging labour may be rendered both easier and cheaper, incentives to invest will also be determined by a large number of other issues (like state of demand, infrastructure, expectations in the market) none of which can be taken for granted by moving the Ordinances.

Finally, it must be recognised that the strict labour discipline invoked by the Ordinances relate only to the formal or the organised sector of industry and services . The formal sector, on an average, employs only 7% of the aggregate labour force and the rest of the 93% remain with the informal sector. Further, since 50% or more of workers in the formal sector are engaged in the capacity of casual or informally employed, it remains that the Ordinance in the four states (or more to follow) may only catch around 3.5% of workers which currently enjoy such labour rights as are still there. Can industry justify the Ordinances even by the benefits expected for the prevailing and future investors in those states?

Possibly the measures are being regarded both by the state and by big capital as an opportune strategy in time of the lockdown under the Pandemic specifically, to further the much sought-after onslaughts of capital on labour. Issues relating to the jobless informal workers swelling the numbers of the unprecedented reverse migration , all under inhuman conditions , do not form an agenda in framing such Ordinances.

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Brazil is the epicenter of the Covid-19 pandemic in Latin America. Rural communities have it worse. – America Magazine

Posted: at 3:21 am

With almost 400,000 confirmed cases and more than 24,000 deaths caused by Covid-19, Brazil has become the epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic in Latin America. If health care services in major cities like Rio de Janeiro and Manaus are on the verge of collapsing, conditions in traditional rural communities are even more distressed.

That is certainly the case in the quilombola settlements, communities founded by African slaves who fled captivity before the abolition of slavery in 1888. The name comes from the Kimbundu Bantu word, quilombo, for war camp.


There are about 3,000 officially recognized quilombola communities in Brazil, but the actual number is much higher, according to researchers. They are often found in hard-to-reach regions of Brazil where infrastructure and social services are extremely weak. Most of the quilombola settlements are located in the northeast of Brazil, especially in Maranho State, with 734 settlements, and Bahia State, with 469. Par State in the north of Brazil is home to 403 communities.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, Catholic missionaries and pastoral commissions that work with quilombolas feared the consequences of the coronavirus reaching their villages. By April the first cases of Covid-19 were confirmed. So far, the National Coordination of Black Rural Quilombola Communities (known as Conaq, in Portuguese) counts 197 confirmed cases of Covid-19 in quilombola settlements, with 46 deaths.

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One of the affected communities is Itaco-Miri, close to Belm, the capital city of Par State, in the Amazon. After an elderly community member died in April, many families panicked, said resident lida Monteiro. His body was taken straight to the cemetery, and there wasnt a proper funeral. His family felt abandoned by the community...that people didnt want to pay respects to him, she said.

As more people got sick, everything changed in Itaco-Miri, even religious life. Most of its 185 families are Catholic and regularly organize celebrations in honor of saints. Since the outbreak, Itaco-Miri has had to adapt. The other day we had the feast of St. Mary, the patroness of families. One of the organizers took the statue on a motorcycle and passed in front of all houses as if it were a procession, she said.

But those precautions cannot be taken by people who still have to work in the city or those who must travel to Belm to access the small financial assistance provided by the federal government during the pandemic. A little more than $100 each month, the assistance is expected to end in June. The risks are huge for those who leave the settlements. We dont have any local health care assistance. In Belm, hospitals are overcrowded, Ms. Monteiro said.

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The situation is the same in other rural parts of the country. Quilombola communities are very fragile, said Givnia Silva, a founding member of Conaq. Their isolation can be a positivein this case it has kept the coronavirus at baybut they cant count on government health care services and have to deal with a deep racism in all levels [of social services], she said.

According to Ms. Silva, many quilombola communities have a significant number of elderly people and comorbidities like diabetes and hypertension are common. Conaq has sponsored campaigns to raise awareness of precautionary measures, but it has strong counter forces to overcome in that effort.

Most quilombola communities were traditionally Catholic, but in the past few decades there has been a strong advance of evangelical Christians in many of them, Ms. Silva said. Those people are now providing a disservice concerning the pandemic.

President Jair Bolsonaro was strongly supported by evangelicals in the 2018 presidential election, and most leading pastors in Brazil still back him. Since the Covid-19 pandemic began, Mr. Bolsonaro has been minimizing its seriousness. He rejected the idea of imposing social distancing measures. Top evangelical leaders adopted the same policy, and some of them kept holding church services until they were forbidden to continue by Brazils judiciary.

They can help to influence people in quilombola communities against the recommendations given by science and health care authorities, Ms. Silva said.

Despite such influences, most communities have been taking precautions, according to Sister ngela Biagioni, a member of the Congregation of the Sisters of Jesus Good Shepherd. She has worked with quilombolas for decades in the Vale do Ribeira region shared by the states of Paran and So Paulo.

A community in the city of Eldorado even asked the help of the local [state prosecutors] office to secure its isolation, given that the number of hunters, fishermen and illegal miners getting into their lands had grown very much, she told America.

In a very isolated area in the Amazonian State of Rondnia, the quilombola community of Pedras Negras, composed mainly of elderly people, has been making a strong effort to keep the coronavirus from reaching the settlement. Manoel Santiago, at 33 one of the younger residents of Pedras Negras, was visiting Porto Velho, the state capital, when the pandemic reached Rondnia State. He decided to stay put for the duration of the quarantine, worried that he might bring the virus back to Pedras Negras.

Mr. Santiago said that most people suffer from diabetes, hypertension or both in Pedras Negras. If the disease hits our community, itll be over, he said.

The nearest health care clinic in the region sends a doctor to see us only once a month. Theres no emergency medical service in the area, Mr. Santiago said. A trip to the nearest city takes at least three hours, two of them by boat on the Guapor River.

Because of its isolation, Pedras Negras is visited by a priest only a few times each year. The last visit was in December 2019 before the pandemic began. It is impossible to say now when the next visit can be expected.

The neighboring quilombola community of Santo Antnio do Guapor is a little closer to an urban area. In an emergency it would take more than 90 minutes to reach a health care clinic in the city of So Francisco, so Santo Antnio residents are just as concerned about their safety.

Its a region visited by many tourists interested in sport fishing, Ronaldo Barros, a community member said. This kind of activity has been restricted by the state government, but we talked to local hotel owners anyway and asked them not to accept newcomers.

He said people currently only leave this community of 76 people to access federal aid in the city. But everybody always wears a face mask.

In the cities of Porto de Moz and Gurup, part of the Diocese of Xingu-Altamira in the Amazonian State of Par, several quilombola communities have completely cut themselves off from contact with the outside world. I havent been able to talk to some of them since the pandemic started. We were informed that they retreated and are waiting for all this to go away, Franciscan Sister Telma Barbosa said.

Sister Barbosa, whose father is a quilombola, has worked with quilombola communities for 15 years. She worries that the precariousness of quilombola life makes these communities totally vulnerable to the coronavirus. Several settlements dont have a toilet, so sanitary conditions can be a problem. Its also common that many people share small houses, she said.

In recent weeks, Sister Barbosa has been monitoring conditions of several quilombola groups, trying to coordinate food donations to the ones she is able to reach. Thats the first thing to do. We cant let them starve to death, she said.

She is concerned by the practical impossibility of extracting a patient because of a medical emergency from the region. The only way to the cities is the river, she said. A boat journey can take many hours. There isnt enough time if a person cant breathe.

The Most Rev. Joo Muniz, the bishop of the Diocese of Xingu-Altamira, said that the quilombolas used to be visited by Cuban doctors who worked in the region thanks to an agreement established with Cuba by former presidents Lula da Silva and Dilma Rousseff, members of the Workers Party of Brazil.

Those arrangements were quickly terminated when Mr. Bolsonaro came to power, and the quilombola communities were left bereft of medical support. The current political situation has been very negative for them, Bishop Muniz said.

Land conflicts have also escalated in recent months, he said. Mr. Bolsonaro supporters include big landowners, who have been expanding their holdings by invading indigenous, quilombola and forest reservations in the Amazon. Since Mr. Bolsonaro took office, the number of land invasions in Brazil grew exponentially.

In the region of the city of Senador Porfrio, the deforestation rate in March was gigantic. Invaders usually menace the traditional peoples who live in such lands, like the quilombolas, Bishop Muniz said.

Quilombolas face other challenges. Many are worried about the economic impact of the pandemic. In Pedras Negras, most residents depend on tourism. The next tourism season should begin in August, but now we dont know how things will be, Mr. Santiago said.

The Diocese of Xingu-Altamira has been raising funds for members of quilombola communities and is coordinating food and other assistance for its registered families. In the State of Par, parishes are often the only civic institutions that have detailed information on the economic status of local families. The diocese has records of the neediest ones and knows who has to be helped.

The church in the Vale do Ribeira region is also concerned about the food security of the quilombola population, said Sister Biagioni. The communities usually sell the surplus of their agricultural production, but now they cant do it. The church and nongovernmental organizations are distributing food to many families, she said.

Her congregation is also helping quilombolas register in Brazils social service system, so they can receive the small emergency aid. Not everybody can access the internet. Weve been doing dozens of registrations and many people are already getting their money, she said.

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The PM must support workers, encourage rural economy, revive industry | Opinion – Hindustan Times

Posted: at 3:21 am

Unprecedented crises such as the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) pose huge challenges not just to the socio-economic fabric of the country but also to the quality of leadership. At moments like this, it is important that the central leadership in India is able to work in collaboration with states as well as global leaders. To Prime Minister (PM) Narendra Modis credit, he has built up strong ties with world leaders, especially United States (US) President Donald Trump. On February 25, Modi hosted Trump and his family at Hyderabad House for lunch. In a reflection of the warmth and the cordiality that marked the event, talks between the two leaders and delegations went on for so long that USembassy officials had to step in to remind the guests that they had to leave for the next destination.

Among those present were top industrialists and dignitaries from both countries. Even when others began to leave, albeit reluctantly, Modi and Trump continued their discussions. Many noted that this sort of warm relationship between an Indian PM and a US President was rare, in fact, unprecedented.

Also read: Leading India to full independence, writes Rajnath Singh

But, there were already dark clouds on the horizon. A few kilometres from Hyderabad House, the government was struggling to control a terrifying communal riot that had got India much negative press across the world and tarnished its image to some extent. To add to this violence was the fact that a grave economic crisis was upon us. And then, Covid-19 began its lethal spread across the world, creating what is one of the biggest tragedies the world has faced in the past century.

This then is the time for Modi to take hard, perhaps even unpopular, decisions. He is often compared with the imperious Indira Gandhi. There are some similarities between the two leaders. Gandhi had total control of her party and the government, and so does Modi. She could take hard decisions and so does he. She was able to win over friends on the international circuit and he has been able to do so too. Both were backed by a commanding poll mandate.

Over the last six years, Modi has been firm in executing his decisions,. He started his second term with controversial decisions on issues such as the triple talaq law, striking down Article 370, and introducing the Citizenship (Amendment) Act. He had just begun on big ticket economic reforms when the pandemic swept through the country. Now, the question is whether he will be able to handle this successfully and get the economy back on track.

Also read | From petrol price, new trains and flights: What will change in lockdown 5.0

Millions of migrant workers have returned home. They have no jobs, no food security and little hope for the future at the moment. He has to instil confidence in them, kickstart the rural economy and oversee a revival of the industrial sector. All this requires enormous leadership skills.

The fifth phase of the lockdown has begun. The earlier lockdowns have not been able to stop the pandemic, but they have brought time to mitigate its effects. A number of financial institutions have predicted that the economy will contract, and Reserve Bank of Indias governor seems to be of the same opinion.

Let us look to the past to see if there are lessons for the future. In 1965 when India was attacked by Pakistan, then PM Lal Bahadur Shastri formulated viable agricultural policies. He evaluated central planning and price control policies. In August 1965, he told Parliament that the government would lift many economic restrictions. He even wanted to devalue the currency, but his finance minister TT Krishnamachari stood in the way. But, unfortunately, Shastri passed away after this. His successor Indira Gandhi continued with his policies; she devalued the rupee in 1966. She pushed ahead with bank nationalisation and the abolition of privy purses.

The green revolution and the increase in industrialisation are the products of that era. All this helped her to deal with the drought of 1967. Again in 1979, during the Janata Party regime, GDP contracted. When Gandhi came back to power in 1980, she brought in a new industrial policy but also formed committees for trade and financial reforms. The role of the private sector was enlarged, though the government couched this in socialist jargon.

Testing times bring out the best and boldest in leaders. Modi does not have a family lineage like Indira Gandhi did, nor is he an accidental PM like PV Narasimha Rao or Manmohan Singh. Like his predecessors, he will have to navigate his way around many crises, the most severe of which confronts us today. He is not one to shy away from taking difficult decisions. Now, the PM has written a letter to his countrymen, with an appeal to unite. Trust generated by dialogue with common man was always his strength, now he is going to fight this battle with it.

Shashi Shekhar is the editor-in-chief, Hindustan

The views expressed are personal

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What Removing Labour Protections Will Mean for India’s Workers – The Wire

Posted: at 3:21 am

Prior to the advent of the Factories Act of 1883, India had seen the worst of an unregulated labour market, a convenient indentured labour base for the British Empire which saw workers as dispensable commodities to its profit-making industries.

This thought came to be discarded swiftly in a socialist welfare state freshly independent of such colonialism. Sadly, in the recent statements surrounding the dilution of labour laws by Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh, with Gujarat soon to follow, one sees a foreboding resurrection of thoughts long relegated to a period of exploitation.

The recent deregulation spree

A disdain towards labour laws seems to have emerged in multiple legislative and policy measures in the recent past. While the Economic Survey of India 2019-20 seemed to pin the blame of modest entrepreneurial indicators to labour regulation, it was only to build a case for increasing deregulation as a way to bolster employment figures.

Even more disconcerting is that the laws which are being sought to be restricted today are no strangers to legislative efforts at dilution. Laws on minimum wages, bonus, contract labour and interstate migration covered by the Uttar Pradesh Temporary Exemption from Certain Labour Laws Ordinance, 2020 have previously been subjects of the Code on Wages 2019 and the Occupational Health, Safety and Working Conditions Code of 2019. It is not an unwarranted concern therefore, that the lockdown may have provided a convenient window to effect a long-held aspiration.

Criticisms of these codes have regularly pointed out that they seem to be instruments of securing employers interests at the cost of workers rights.

Also read: The Urban Service Workforce Will Be the Next Casualty of the COVID-19 Lockdown

Definitions of critical components such as minimum wages are missing and discretion is granted to governments to determine their own methodology to categorise them. Principal employers are protected from financial and criminal responsibility, such as from workplace accidents or death. Deterrents such as penal provisions also stand removed, enforcement mechanisms are dismantled and employers have been provided a self-certification scheme to show compliance with regulations.

Trade unions in the past year had been agitating against the Trade Unions Amendment Bill of 2019 which vests complete control in the hands of the government to recognise trade unions. This move has been seen as an attack on the tripartite consensus between employers, employees and government and most crucially, on collective bargaining powers, a critical element of workers rights.

Collective bargaining would have taken on an even more important role in putting forward the abject distress workers have been facing since the beginning of the lockdown. In this background, the current step towards the temporary removal of labour protections seems to be the penultimate step off a slippery slope.

One is therefore left confounded by the argument which in effect states that since the protection of existing legislation only extends to 10% of the national workforce, it is no loss to strip away entirely this fig leaf of the pretence of labour rights. Orwellian doublespeak is alive and kicking when such determination is proclaimed to be a measure to protect workers.

A tenuous link

Does the dilution of labour laws indeed provide a feasible tradeoff for economic benefits? Most previous engagements would show otherwise. A study by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) on Employment Protection Legislation showed negative effects of deregulatory market reform in developing countries in terms of tackling unemployment, a scenario which India cannot afford to exacerbate as it undergoes a record unemployment high. The tenuous link between dilutionary measures and market performance has been seen with healthy scepticism, if not outright dismissal, by most studies, particularly for developing countries where such measures tend to disproportionately affect marginalised groups within the labour markets.

On the extreme but likely plausible end of the spectrum, all such measures are coming on the heels of rising concerns by global watchdogs that modern slavery will see an uptick in the shadow of the pandemic. To dilute protective measures may risk creating a conducive atmosphere for such a scenario. To compel a worker to work under diluted protections, even as the rest of the country is cloistered in the safety of their homes to withstand a pandemic, is effectively forced labour and as classist a move as one can fathom. To want to return to the safety of ones home, or to have the assurance of a safe working environment and make a minimum wage is not an exercise in privilege. Far from it; it is a demand for a right to life and to live a meaningful life, free of servitude and compelled labour.

Also read: Changes in Labour Laws Will Turn the Clock Back by Over a Century

It is apposite to remind legislators of the positive ratification status of India to six of the eight core conventions of the ILO: Forced Labour Convention, 1930 (No. 29), Abolition of Forced Labour Convention, 1957 (No. 105), Equal Remuneration Convention, 1951 (No. 100), Discrimination (Employment and Occupation) Convention, 1958 (No. 111), Minimum Age Convention, 1973 (No. 138) and Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention, 1999 (No. 182) commitments to which it is bound at an international and domestic level. In the absence of social protective measures in developing countries, most recommendations from international organisations have focused on measures such as public employment programmes. Deregulation as a step in the opposite direction is more likely to aggravate the human rights concerns which emerge in an economic crisis. A ripple effect of such measures is more likely to be seen in the form of economic inequality and the deepening of the societal fault lines of gender, religion and caste. Thus, to say that regulations make Indian labour more costly is to function with the hypothesis that even minimum wages are too heavy a burden for a capitalist regulatory regime.

Aiman Hashmi is a final year LLB candidate at the Faculty of Law, University of Delhi.

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This is a time for constructive thinking, not endless moaning – Architects Journal

Posted: at 3:21 am

For decades, the cult of density has informed the way architects and space planners have thought about everything from office layouts to the way we organise our cities. The assumption has generally been that density is good for you. When Ricky Burdett curated his Venice Biennale show a decade ago, it was all about the way we needed to densify.

Suddenly, all this is starting to look irrelevant. The new mantra is space, not density; homes and gardens, rather than high-rise residential boxes; and office floorspace layouts based on separation, not proximity.

Since most of the proponents of density themselves live in substantial houses with gardens attached, not to mention their second homes well away from fashionably dense urban environments, we dont need to shed too many tears for them or their nostrums.

In the meantime, wonderful new workstreams are opening up for designers as employers get to grips with the implications of new ways of living and working. The useless teaching unions objecting to children going back to school seem to be oblivious to the excellent work undertaken by teachers, some presumably their own members, in rethinking classrooms and routes through schools, as part of the programme to let the children of key workers remain at school.

This is a time for constructive and creative thinking, not endless moaning about how everything is impossible. Its a bit like Dads Army, where ingenuity is at a premium while regulation fetishists like Warden Hodges go around squeaking but contributing absolutely nothing to the overall effort.

Arp hodges

I found it extraordinary that intelligent people claimed to be confused about the prime ministers back-to-work television address. They apparently didnt know whether they were supposed to go back to work or not. Since the message explicitly stated that people who can work from home should continue to do so, I was only confused by the alleged confusion. (Boriss critics include people who dislike or hate him for being a Conservative; object to him because he won the Brexit referendum; and are furious that he won the last election. None of this, of course, has anything to do with the virus.)

Critics should note that Boris was the only politician to achieve any increase in residential space standards since the abolition of Parker Morris regulations

When it comes to space planning, critics should note that Boris was the only politician to achieve any increase in residential space standards since the abolition of Parker Morris regulations 40 years ago. His London minimum space standards should become mandatory nationally, and possibly made bigger to take account of possible future pandemic scenarios in which people have to work from home to an even greater extent than they are likely to anyway.

The designers who have won awards for their school architecture in recent years should be mobilised to do speedy revamps of classroom layouts, and to plot out routes in and around schools, recognising the requirement for social distancing. If I have a criticism of government, it is that it has not been centralist enough on this subject, instead leaving it to local education authorities and, of course, the sniping from dozy, self-serving teaching unions.

It came as no surprise to hear that Sadiq Khan is increasing the Congestion Charge in London to 15 a day, extending the tax to cover Saturdays and Sundays, and closing key routes. This is in the context of worries about congestion on the Underground and buses, and a request from government to encourage alternative modes of transport (for example walking and cycling), but including the use of cars.

Mayor Khan has never understood a simple rule, not just about transport, but the provision of almost anything: you shouldnt reduce capacity at a time of maximum demand. Thank goodness he is not in charge of PPE.

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