May 17, 2015

CITU Wins Secret Ballot in NTPC Vindhyachal Super Thermal Power Station

Swadesh Dev Roye

SECRET ballot was held at the Vindhyachal Super Thermal Power Generation Station of NTPC on May 6. The CITU union there has won the election conclusively. It was for the third time the secret ballot took place in the power station. In the first election held in March 2008, the CITU union won. In the second election held in May 2012, BMS union won. And now in the third time, the CITU union again won the elections defeating the BMS and INTUC unions. CITU Union Fought for Secret Ballot System Incidentally it may be mentioned that without any verification of membership strength the INTUC affiliated union there continued to be the recognised union since 1988 till the first secret ballot election, as per provision of the M P Industrial Relations Act. The CITU union took the matter to the labour court concerned demanding secret ballot. The legal proceedings continued for several years. The INTUC union and the NTPC management opposed the petition of CITU and the other unions of the project refused to be party in the case. Ultimately the court declared that NTPC being a central PSU does not come under the jurisdiction of the MP IR Act. Consequently in line with other power stations of NTPC spread over different states, secret ballot had to be adopted in Vindhyachal also. Even after the court verdict the INTUC union and the management deployed dilatory tactics to delay the secret ballot. Shocking fact is that on the day of the first time secret ballot in Vindhyachal (2008), the INTUC union obtained a court order staying the counting of votes. So again the CITU union had to take the matter to the court to vacate the stay. In the process there was a gap of more than 20 months between the day of secret ballot and the day of counting of the votes. The ballot took place on March 8, 2008 and the counting took place on November 5, 2009. The whole episode is demonstrative of the commitment of CITU in upholding the democratic right of workers in choosing their representative union. It is an example in point as to how the CITU union fought the class collaborationist pro-management unions who want to enjoy the position of representative union with the undue support from management and without mandate from workers. Seven hundred and sixty-four regular workers had cast their votes in the election. CITU scored 263 votes, the second position was secured by INTUC union with 233 votes while the BMS union got 157 votes. In this connection it is significant to note that there was a split within the BMS union leadership. The President of the BMS union openly campaigned against the General Secretary of the BMS union. Further the dissident BMS union President also appealed to his supporters to cast their votes in favour of the INTUC union. Now from the voting pattern it is clear that in the absence of such development, the votes of INTUC union would have gone down while that of BMS would have slightly gone up and margin between CITU union and the loosing unions would have been bigger. From the statement of workers concerned it has been revealed that a section of the management at the project and at the corporate office took covert steps to help the INTUC union to win the secret ballot. Profile of Vindhyachal Power Station Vindhyachal is situated in the district of Singrauli in the state of Madhya Pradesh. Vindhyachal Super Thermal Power Station (VSTP) is the largest thermal power station in NTPC Ltd. and largest thermal power station of the country also. The current installed capacity at VSTP is 4,260 MW and another 500 MW is ready for generation and thus the total installed capacity is ready to be 4,760 MW. The total capacity has been achieved in five stages with a total of 13 units. Stage-I is consisted of six units of 210 MW each. The first unit of stage-I was commissioned in October, 1987 and the 6th unit of this stage was commissioned in 1991. Stages II, III and IV have two units of 500 MW each commissioned between 1999 and 2013. Stage V has one unit of 500 MW. Thus VSTP has a total of 13 power generating units. The VSTP is engaged in generating electric power using coal as fuel. It enjoys the advantage of being a pithead power plant. The beneficiary states are Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Goa, Daman & Diu, and Dadra and Nagar Haveli. Significance of the Victory Obviously the movemental and organisational benefit for CITU from this victory at the VSTP shall spread far beyond the boundary of the VSTP. Being the largest power station of NTPC the result of secret ballot in VSTP shall influence such exercise in other projects of NTPC as well. Further the representative union of VSTP plays a vital role in the collective bargaining forum of NTPC, called National Bipartite Committee of NTPC. But the most reckonable impact of the result in question would be amongst the neighbouring range of NTPC power stations, namely Shaktinagar, Rihand and Unchahar. The distance between any two nearest power stations of NTPC in the region on an average would be around 70 kilometers. Now these four super thermal power stations are the major units of Northern Region. The administrative structure of NTPC has been drawn by creating Regional Administrative set-ups. The four projects named above come under the Northern Region with RHQ at Lucknow. This is the biggest region of NTPC. It is very important to note that out of the four power stations noted above, in two CITU union is the recognised unions and in one the recognised union is jointly represented by AITUC and CITU. In the fourth power station (Unchahar), CITU union won secret ballot earlier on two occasions. However, the present recognised union is a BMS union. Of course secret ballot in Unchahar is going to be due shortly and the CITU and AITUC unions of the project have decided fight the election jointly and this is bound to bring victory for the major left unions. The Onslaught Came Across and Task Ahead Finally, we must not miss to note that Madhya Pradesh is ruled by BJP. The local MP and MLA are from the BJP and even the local Panchayat is also run by BJP. RSS conducts sakhas comprising executives and non-executives of NTPC in the township of VSTP. So the victory has been achieved confronting the onslaught of these adversities. The lesson to be learnt is that the working class is certainly capable of achieving victory defeating the extremely reactionary political class enemies. Amongst the contributing factors behind the victory were capable, popular, honest and sincere leadership of the CITU union in VSTP. The guidance, direct and remote contribution of Madhya Pradesh State CITU leaders had been of paramount importance. Comrades Badal Saroj, Promod Pradhan and Ramvilas Goswami, Vice President, General Secretary and President respectively of the state CITU visited VSTP before and during the election campaign. It is worthwhile to note that while the BMS and INTUC unions campaigned to allure the workers with long list of election promises of economic benefits, the CITU campaign was conducted on the limited core and basic issues highlighting the need for struggle against the anti-public sector and anti-labour policies of the Modi government. Retrograde power policy of the Modi government (the Electricity Bill, 2014) unduly favouring the big private power generators and imposing hostile policies including divestment of shares on NTPC, refusing schedule resulting in lower PLF to the giant power PSU were the focus of CITU’s campaign. CITU’s main message was without struggle nothing can be achieved. Now instead of remaining anchored in the shore conquered, we must sail without allowing the energy generated in course of the election campaign to cool down with the immediate goal to consolidate our organization in the four major power stations under the Northern Region of NTPC.