The Working Peoples Coalition (WPC) network is a coalition of organizations working on issues related to informal labour in particular and labour in general. It is an independent entity not affiliated with any organization, federation or political party. The WPC is open to all organizations who are in broad agreement with the Working Peoples Charter and are working with informal labour, including in organizing, support, research, training, skilling etc., irrespective of their affiliation or sector.
Initially, the charter was intended as a document that would serve as a manifesto for constituent organizations to be used during the 2014 Lok Sabha Elections. Several demands converged, relating to social security, conditions at work, the security of tenure, the right to organize and minimum wages, with several organizations rallying behind the charter document and making parliamentarians accountable at their local level. Following the elections, with the BJP–NDA win, a broader alliance could be formed around the charter document to bring together a wider variety of organizations and workers from across the country to rally behind the demands of the Working Peoples Charter. A process began to emerge and eight-core areas emerged around which the constituent groups converged. They included: Minimum Wages, Social Security, Labour Administration, Labour Law Reform, Right to Work, Workers Housing, Bonded Labour and Migrant Workers.
Whether it is the burden of high growth or the high cost of an economic crisis, the working class always has to sacrifice in terms of jobs, wages, social security and personal safety. The need for coming together, analyzing and understanding the situation and developing strategies for survival and struggle is more critical than ever before, with widespread informalisation of labour across all sectors and geographies resulting in the weakening of the labour movement. The WPC network:
With the help of Aajeevika Bureau, WPC has set up an all India national Mediation and Legal Aid Centre with links in different states to help workers, especially migrant workers, to ask for help with the issues they may be facing at their places of work, and to provide information that can help them access their entitlements. The centre is based in Mumbai and paralegal staff are available in five states, to begin with, namely Delhi, UP, Karnataka, Telangana, and Maharashtra. By 2022, the centre will expand to more states.
WPC has groups of experts to help with training, education and policy development, in order to generate briefing papers and statements. WPC works with Labour Axis, a knowledge network consisting of researchers working on labour related issues who work with the network to help in formulating positions and informing campaigns. The WPC’s work on labour also includes an understanding and engagement with citizenship, sustainable development and the city. WPC works in a social and political context and the place of labour within it. It sees labour in the context of an exploitative system based on profit above all else. It sees class in intersectionality with gender, caste and race. It is committed to building a democratic, sustainable and climate-just world.
WPC has taken up an initiative to bring together lawyers working on labour issues, who can help WPC constituencies and work of the India Labourline, Labour Axis and campaign groups. The network will also reach out to para-legal workers, notaries etc.
Language is a major obstacle for an organization with national level networks of grassroots organisations. Sanchaar is being set up to facilitate communication between activists in various states who are divided by barriers of language.
WPC includes all sectors of informal labour: construction, domestic, brick kilns, care work, self-employed, farm labour, forest workers, health workers, gig workers, sweatshop labour, contract workers, migrant workers and many more. The network has a grassroots presence in more than thirteen states of India, although the consolidation of the presence is yet to be completed. These states include - Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Delhi, Jharkhand, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Pondicherry, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Telangana, West Bengal, and some North-Eastern states. The network is still in its growth phase and is covering more states slowly.
WPC is canvassing membership and establishing state-level WPC coordination committees in every state. Organisations are encouraged to email or call for details. Member organisations in the various states are requested to actively reach out to organizations in various sectors throughout the state in order to reach as many as possible.
WPC largely works for informal labour, i.e., people dependent on the informal economy for a livelihood.
We firmly believe that the time has come to join together across the country through this wide network to take up common issues of labour, show solidarity with each other, draw on the strengths and experiences of each organization or network and bring critically needed change in the lives of workers in our country.