CPSU Workers to Prepare for Nationwide Strike
Swadesh Dev Roye
A meeting of the unions in central public sector undertakings (CPSUs) was held at the CITU Centre in New Delhi on March 11. It was attended by around 135 leading comrades representing almost all major CPSUs in the country. The president and general secretary of CITU addressed the meeting, presided over by Sudha Bhaskar, secretary.
A background note, presented by Swadesh Dev Roye, reviewed the participation of PSU workers in the September 2 strike; stressed upon steps to improve urgently future participation; captured the picture of the pervasive programme of privatisation of top 10 profit-making PSUs by the Modi government as has come out in the pre-budget announcement by Finance Minister and current budget proposals before Parliament; an update on the Modi government’s evil design to demolish labour laws and regulations; the RSS and its affiliates’ fascistic killing of renowned rationalists, scholarly students, innocent people and invasion of educational institutes with communal and revivalist evil design; and the need to strengthen and continue the united struggles on important issues.
A call to ‘Prepare for All India Strike by PSU Workers’ has been adopted and announced at the conclusion of the deliberations. More than 20 comrades participated in the discussion. Towards preparation for strike, a programme of propaganda, campaign and agitation has been decided to be implemented in three phases: 1st phase up to March 31 to fully depute for preparation of materials for mass contact, 2nd phase from April 11 to 26: massive campaign amongst workers at factory and residential places through distribution and display of handbills, posters and banners and group, departmental and general body meetings. On May 27, 2016 All India Anti-Disinvestment/Anti-Privatisation Day through agitation programmes. Then, conventions of regular and contract workers at local, state, regions and all India levels will be completed by September. The strike date shall be decided at appropriate time. In the meantime, the joint preparation for long drawn struggles for next round of wage negotiations in public sector shall be initiated.
SUMMARY OF THE
A very brief summary of the background note was presented in discussion. A few week preceding the presentation of central budget 2016-17 in Parliament, the government pronounced a plan for strategic sale of the equities of the top most physical and financial performing PSUs, the top ten profit making PSUs, besides pushing through aggressive disinvestment of shares in other PSUs despite the stock market remaining in gloom reflecting low prices for PSU shares compared to their real worth.
The energy sector has been identified as the prime target of the attack. As per report, ONGC, Oil India, IOC, BPCL, HPCL, Coal India and NTPC have been listed for “mega strategic sale”. Foreign private big business will be invited to bid for buying equities of energy sector PSUs with the reported aim: “private sector partners will be expected to turn the energy PSUs into global giants spread across the world.” Now according to the design and the definition of the Department of Disinvestment, ‘strategic sale’ involves handing over of management of the company concerned to the private equity buyer. Therefore, given the pronouncements and indications by the NDA government, it seems energy sector PSUs are going to be victims of strategic sale of equities.
It may be recalled that after the last round of disinvestment, the remaining government share holding in the major oil PSUs are: ONGC 69.23%, OIL 67.64%, IOCL 58.57%, BPCL 54.93, and HPCL 51.11%. It is crystal clear that further small doze of divestment will make these strategic major PSUs private companies. Further, the globally competitive engineering giant BHEL, defence sector PSUs like BEML, HAL, etc. have also been initially shortlisted for the strategic sale. Such an exercise is nothing but a design for putting on sale, obviously to the global private players, that too, on a platter the sources of the country's basic economic strength piece by piece in phases.
In the meantime, for the first time in recent years, in 2014-15 there has been a decrease in turnover/gross revenue by 3.40%, total income reduced by 4.43%, profit of profit-making CPSUs declined by 12.88%, overall net profit of CPSUs decreased by 19.71%, loss of loss-incurring CPSUs increased by 28.20%, total number of employees in CPSUs has been reduced by 4.30%. The main reasons behind these negative developments are hostile policy measures adopted by the government in an increasing scale and, coupled with this, the impact of the ongoing systemic crisis of capitalism and resultant serious stagnation in the market. Capacity utilisation of many important PSUs has been reduced very badly.
BUDGET 2016-17: DIABOLICAL DESIGN
FOR OUTRIGHT PRIVATISATION
Desperation of the Narendra Modi government to ensure ‘smooth and swift’ execution of the aggressive ‘project privatisation’ of PSUs, the Union Budget 2016-17 has resorted to certain unprecedented route map to dismantle public sector.This year’s budget has fixed disinvestment target of Rs 56,500 crore -- Rs 36,000 crore through minority stake sale and Rs 20,500 crore through strategic sales. Apart from equity sale, government has declared that it will go for sell out of land, buildings, manufacturing units and other assets owned by PSUs.
The government has replaced the practice of case by case approval for stake sale of PSUs by the Union Cabinet and instead NITI Aayog has been empowered to exercise full authority to decide stake sale, asset sale and outright privatisation. In his budget speech, the Finance Minister has announced, “The NITI Aayog will identify the CPSE for strategic sale. We will adopt a comprehensive approach for efficient management of the government investment in CPSEs by addressing issues such as capital restructuring, dividend, bonus shares.” In the meantime, the government has renamed the Department of Disinvestment to Department of Investment and Public Asset Management (DIPAM). This is nothing but a deceptive nomenclature to hide their evil intention. Immediately after presentation of the budget, the Secretary of Disinvestment Department (now called DIPAM) told the media that the “government will soon come out with a comprehensive policy for strategic stake that will detail the mode as well as valuation methodology for outright sale of even profit making PSUs.”
The private corporate-controlled media obviously welcomed the new privatisation policy of the Modi government and commented, “It may be recalled that the previous NDA government led by Atal Bihari Vajpayee had between 1999 and 2004 privatised about a dozen state-owned firms and hotels including Videsh Sanchar Nigam Ltd (VSNL), Bharat Aluminium Company Ltd (BALCO), CMC Ltd and Hindustan Zinc (HZL). But the policy was buried after the UPA came to power and only minority stake sales were pursued since then.” “The present NDA government is now taking steps at reviving the policy persuaded by the previous NDA government. The vacuum is being sought to be filled with a comprehensive policy. Also, the policy would cover both profit and loss making CPSEs, much on the lines of the report of two Disinvestment Commissions which had submitted their reports in the previous NDA regime.”
The background note, presented to the meeting of the Coordination Committee held at New Delhi on 30-31 August 2014, we had dealt in details with tabulated facts and figures about the contribution of Planning Commission and the successive Fiver Year plans in establishing PSUs in various sectors of our industries. A quotation from that report is worth mentioning: “It will be interesting to recollect as to how some of the strategic sectors and individual PSUs came into being as an integral part of our Five Year Plan implementation and how those have contributed in an invaluable scale in the post independence economic reconstruction of our country. These pride of the nation must be ingredients to ignite the leaders and cadres of our movement to mobilize the rank and file and mass of the workers to protect the economic monument of our country being destroyed by the enemies of the nation and those who have sold themselves to private sector, both domestic and foreign, and now want to sell the economic strength and independence of the country.”
It is a cruel mockery that the Planning Commission, which played a huge role in building the PSUs in the country, is now (NITI Aayog) assigned with the task by Modi government to destroy these national assets. In the absence of effective resistance, the trade union movement in PSUs shall also be held guilty for the destruction of PSUs.
An insightful study over the overt and covert intention behind the diabolical blueprint drawn in the budget speech by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley shall reveal that this time they are out to hand over the dominating control of ownership of public sector to private sector. The Modi government is desperate to sell out the national assets built with tax payers’ money and labour of the toiling people under the patriotic spirit and aim of self-reliant industrial growth and strengthening of political and economic sovereignty of the country. No other regime at the Centre ever embarked upon such anti-national and pro-imperialist policy activities in the post-independence period in India. It is an utter policy bankruptcy and betrayal to the nation.
People with basic patriotic sense must not tolerate such disastrous game of the BJP government at the Centre. The very idea of such sale-out of the country's blue chip PSUs contributing hugely to national exchequer, besides making capital investments in the national economy out of their own resources is nothing but putting the country on sale in tranches. This must be defeated jointly by all patriotic democratic secular forces.
ABOLISHING LABOUR LAWS
AND ATTACKING TU RIGHTS
The direction of the budget clearly points out that the NDA government is desperate to intensify attack on labour laws, eliminate regulations and gift ‘jungle-raj’ enabling employers’ class unleashing primitive exploitation of labour. In the Economic Survey 2015-16 presented to Parliament, a whole chapter under the caption ‘Structural Changes in India’s Labour Markets’ has been deputed drawing a dangerous design to dismantle the labour regulations. Under an obnoxious term titled ‘Regulatory Cholesterol’, the Economic Survey has noted, “Labour regulations is a significant barrier to growth and specifically dismissal norms are rigid and cumbersome.” Anti-labour attitude of the government is crystal clear.
Utter anti-labour changes in labour laws carried out by state governments have been decorated in the Survey as ‘Competitive Federalism’. In the name of extending ‘free hand’ to employers’ class under the guise of delivering ‘ease in doing business’, there are clear indications that the government would push several labour law amendments bills in the current budget session of Parliament.
MUST BE INTENSIFIED
We must not miss to note with alarm the hurry of the government to bury our PSUs. The government has introduced a short cut and hasty decision making method without any parliamentary accountability. Dispensing with the need for Cabinet sub-committee approval, the NITI Aayog has been vested with the authority to take decision for mega strategic sale of PSUs, meaning thereby effective privatisation and also selling out the various assets of even profit making PSUs. They want India to become a hunting ground for private big business, both indigenous and foreign, compromising economic sovereignty of our country and inflicting economic, political and social sufferings on the toiling people including the working class. Facilitating primitive accumulation of capital by grabbing our high-valued PSUs and uncivilised exploitation of labour by snatching away trade union rights and denying labour law protection are the essence of Modi-ji’s ‘Make in India’.
The basic struggles under the banner of ‘SAVE PUBLIC SECTOR; SAVE INDIA’ and the day-to-day struggle for immediate burning issues of the workers in public sector are inter-related and certainly cannot be segregated. When the Modi government is desperate to destroy the public sector undertakings, obviously they have unleashed all round onslaught on the public sector workers also.
The working class is confronting all round onslaughts on life and livelihood. The real wage is going down, the share of wages in value added to production is sliding and living standard is going down. Social security measures are dismantled. Labour legislations protecting employment have been replaced by laws that enhance the arbitrary power of employers to fire workers reduce compensation for firing regular workers and hire temporary and casual workers.
The immediate task must be to launch massive campaign against dismantling of public sector. We must resort to man-to-man contact at work place and at residential townships. Shop and departmental meetings are a must. Continuity of campaign and agitation with all seriousness, consciousness and dedication involving all the permanent and contract workers in all the PSUs throughout the country in the next couple of months, we can definitely prepare a fertile ground for a very militant action to defeat the design of the NDA government.
All our affiliated and the friendly unions in PSUs should make serious effort to organise the contract workers in trade unions and/or establish coordination with contract workers’ union if it is already there. Our union should seriously campaign on contract workers’ vital demand on “same wage for same work” among the regular workers and involve them in agitation programme on that demand from the platform of regular workers’ union after formally presenting that demand to the respective management. It is essential to combat the attack on trade union rights and the onslaught of Labour Law amendments pushed by the Modi government directed to corner workers at the brutal disposition of the capitalist class bereft of any labour law protection.
In today’s context, the working class must organise on top priority basis consistent campaign against the communal agenda and killings of renowned rationalist intellectuals and the fascistic attack on the democratic fundamental rights of people and the revivalist onslaught in our finest educational institutions by RSS and its affiliates. For the sake of working class unity, this task is all the more important. Fascistic forces must be fought with ideological conviction, courage and determination.