A K Padmanabhan
AMIDST thundering slogans from the presidium and from the participant delegates, the National Convention of Workers held on May 26 in Mavalankar Hall in New Delhi adopted a declaration calling upon every worker in the country to go for a day’s General Strike on September 2, 2015.
The convention called by the eleven Central Trade Unions along with independent National Federations was attended by delegates from all over the country, representing unions in organised, unorganised sectors and from the Scheme Workers. They were from both the public and private sector. National leaders of the all the central trade unions and federations from banking, insurance, central and state governments, defence, telecom, railways and other service establishments participated in the convention.
The decision to call the convention was taken on April 9 “to decide upon the future programme of actions including strike”. This decision was taken after the government has failed to listen to the workers demands and was in such a haste to go ahead with various anti-worker decisions. The situation is such that the worker related decisions are not being taken by the labour ministry, but by the PMO, finance ministry and others. The labour ministry is not even able to justify their actions.
Various sections of workers including those from banks, insurance, coal, road transport and telecom had organised countrywide strikes during the last few months against the policies of privatisation, for saving public sector and against other anti-worker legislations.
During the last two sessions of parliament, various sections of workers from different sectors including various scheme workers, construction workers etc had organised demonstrations before the parliament. The central government employees, including those from railways and defence had organised a massive Parliament March on April 28 and decided to organise campaigns culminating in an indefinite strike from November 23.
It was in such a situation that representatives from various trade unions assembled in Delhi to take stock of the situation and decide upon the future programme of struggles.
The central government had in the meanwhile constituted a five member committee with finance minister, labour minister, ministers of coal, oil and the minister of state in the PMO to hold discussion with the unions. The labour minister in a letter to Central Trade Unions, on 24th night, informed that discussions will be held in the month of June on the demands of workers.
The Central Trade Union leaders’ meeting on May 25 decided to go ahead with the Convention and the Convention decided to go for the countrywide General Strike on September 2.
The declaration adopted in the Convention (see page 2) is a chargesheet against the NDA government on its anti-worker, anti-people policies. It listed the government’s actions against the workers, kisans and others.
The proceedings were conducted by a presidium of eleven leaders including Baijnath Rai (BMS), Amarjeeth Kaur (AITUC), Shiv Gopal Mishra (HMS) and AK Padmanabhan (CITU).
Those who spoke in the Convention, in support of the draft declaration circulated to the delegates were, Vrijesh Upadhyaya (BMS), Ashok Singh (INTUC), Gurudas Das Gupta (AITUC), HS Sidhu (HMS), Tapan Sen (CITU), Krishna Chakraborthy (AIUTUC), SP Tiwari (TUCC), Rajiv Dimri (AICCTU), Abani Roy (UTUC), Monali (SEWA) and M Shanmugham (LPF).
The Convention concluded with the call to reach out to every worker in the country to make the General Strike a big success.
NATIONAL CONVENTION OF WORKERS
THIS National Convention of Workers being held under the banner of joint platform of all the Central Trade Unions of the country along with independent national federations of all sectors and service establishments expresses deep concern over anti-worker, anti-people and pro-corporate actions of the present government at the centre in pursuance of the policy of globalisation. During this period the government has been over-busy in amending all labour laws to empower the employers with unfettered rights to “hire and fire” and stripping the workers and trade unions of all their rights and benefits besides aggressively pushing through almost unlimited FDI in strategic sectors like railways, defence and financial sector. Also, through sweeping changes in the existing Land Acquisition Act, farmers’ right to land and agri-workers’ right to livelihood are being sought to be drastically curbed and curtailed.
The governments’ aim in aggressively pushing through sweeping changes in labour laws is nothing but to push out overwhelming majority of workers out of the coverage of all labour laws and to drastically curb the trade union rights. The CTUs had besides other issues raised the issue of strict enforcement of labour laws and universal social security but this government is doing away with all rights-components in all the labour laws aiming at creating conditions of bonded labour in all the workplaces. EPF and ESI schemes are proposed to be made optional which is also aimed at demolishing the PF and ESI schemes dismantling the basic social security structures available to the organised sector. And for the vast unorganised sector workers, old schemes are being repackaged and renamed, without providing for funds and implementation-machinery/network with a view to befool the people. The government has not taken any step to curb price rise of essential commodities and to generate employment, except making tall claims of containing inflation in the media. On universalising public distribution system, the government is trying to scuttle it through Direct Benefit Transfer resulting in further squeeze on the common people.
During the year with the support of the present government, various state governments have brought about drastic anti-worker changes in basic labour laws viz., Industrial Disputes Act, Contract Labour (Regulation & Abolition) Act, Factories Act and Apprenticeship Act, Trade Unions Act etc, introducing “hire & fire”, throwing more than 71 percent of factories out of coverage of Factories Act and making all contractors employing up to 50 workers free from any obligation towards workers. The central government on its part has introduced amendments to Factories Act raising doubly the limit of workers for registration of factories, it has put in public domain the proposals for new Small Factories (Regulations of service conditions) Bill which prescribes that major 14 labour laws will not apply to factories employing upto 40 workers. Labour Code on Wages Bill and Labour Code on Industrial Relations Bill which under the cover of amalgamation seek to make registration of unions almost impossible, and make retrenchment and closure almost free for the employer class. These bills have been put in public domain without consulting the trade unions, thereby violating the provisions of ILO Convention 144 on Tripartite Consultation. Amendments have also been brought in EPF & MP Act and ESI Act to make it optional with a sinister design to finally demolish the two time-tested statutory schemes for the workers. The Prime Minister’s Office has written to the chief secretaries of states to follow Rajasthan Model in labour laws. All these amendments are meant to exclude 90 percent of the workforce from the purview of labour laws thereby allowing the employers to further squeeze and exploit the workers.
The Convention also expresses dismay over the government’s total inaction in implementing the consensus recommendations of 43rd, 44th and 45th Indian Labour Conferences on formulation of minimum wages, same wage and benefits as regular workers for the contract workers and granting status of workers with attendant benefits to those employed in various central government schemes like anganwadi, mid-day-meal, ASHA, para-teachers etc. On the contrary, the government has drastically curtailed budget allocations to all those centrally sponsored schemes meant for poor peoples’ welfare.
It is also noted with utter dismay that the present government is also continuing to ignore the twelve point demands of entire trade union movement pertaining to concrete action to be taken for containing price-rise and aggravating unemployment situation, for strict implementation of labour laws, halting mass scale unlawful contractorisation, ensuring minimum wages for all of not less than Rs 15,000 per month with indexation and universal social security benefits and pension for all including the unorganised sector workers, etc. The demands also include compulsory registration of trade unions within 45 days and ratification of ILO Conventions 87 and 98. Even the legislations passed by parliament on the issue of street vendors are not being implemented appropriately.
The National Convention also denounced the retrograde move of the government in hiking/allowing FDI in defence, insurance, railways and other sectors and also its aggressive move for disinvestment in PSUs including oil and financial sector, aiming at total privatisation which will be detrimental to the interests of the national economy, national security as well as mass of the common people. The National Convention also condemned the sweeping change sought to be brought in Land Acquisition Act permitting forcible acquisition of land from the farmers and putting in jeopardy the livelihood of agricultural workers. It is disgusting to note that 147 workers of Maruti-Suzuki at Manesar are being forced to languish in jail for more than two years on false and fabricated charges. It is unfortunate that even after the assurance of the prime minister to revive the closed NOKIA Sriperumbudur unit, the recent decision to sell it out demonstrates the government approach to deny protection to workers. The coal sector has already been opened for commercial operations by private sector. In the banking industry also, the government wants to push their anti-people banking sector reforms while no effective action is being taken to recover the huge bad loans (NPA) from the Corporate Sector.
The Convention supports the decision of the constituents of JCM of central government employees to go for indefinite strike from November 23, 2015 and will decide at appropriate stage the form of solidarity action to be taken. The Convention also congratulates coal, postal, transport and telecom workers for their strike against policies of the government.
The Convention demands upon the central government to stop forthwith the process of making retrograde amendments to the labour laws. The Convention also demands immediate steps to implement the consensus recommendations of successive Indian Labour Conferences and also positive response to long pending demands of the entire trade union movement of the country. The Convention urges the central government to desist from mindless drive for disinvestment in CPSUs and liberalising FDI in defence, insurance, railways etc and the convention also condemns the government’s move of corporatisation of major ports and postal services etc. The Convention urges the government to reverse the direction of the ongoing economic policy regime which has landed the entire national economy in distress and decline affecting the working people most.
The Convention calls upon all the trade unions, federations across the sectors to widen and consolidate the unity at the grass-root level and prepare for countrywide united movement to halt and resist the brazen anti-worker and anti-people policies of the government and in preparation to the same, undertake unanimously the following programme:
· Hold joint conventions and campaigns during June-July at state, district and industry level wherever possible and taking initiative to involve common people in support of
· All India General Strike on September 2, 2015
The National Convention calls upon the trade unions and working people irrespective of affiliations to unite and make the countrywide General Strike a massive success.