CITU Foundation Day Observed with Fervour
The central trade unions, which met on June 3 decided to intensify the joint struggle. They called for observing July 3, 2020 as a Protest Day all over the country. They also decided to observe non-cooperation and defiance against the government’s anti-national, anti-people and anti-worker policies, the concrete form of which will be formulated soon.
MAY 30 is the foundation day of CITU. On May 30, 2020, CITU completed 50 years; 50 years of struggles and sacrifices fighting for unity of the working class and for intensifying united struggles against class exploitation. CITU decided to commemorate the Golden Jubilee year of its foundation through yearlong activities, focussing on strengthening itself politically and ideologically and strengthening united struggles.
The conclusion of the Golden Jubilee year was planned to be held in Kolkata, the city where it was founded. This was to be followed by the meeting of the CITU general council. Rallies, seminars, meetings etc were planned all over the country. However, these could not be held due to the lockdown.
In view of the limited scope for big mobilisations, CITU secretariat has decided to conclude the Golden Jubilee year in a different manner. It has decided to hoist lakhs of flags all over the country and to form human chains, with smaller number of people but in large number of places, without touching hands but carrying CITU flags and placards. It has called upon its state committees, wherever possible to organise online classes explaining CITU’s understanding about the present situation and the need to intensify joint struggles upto the lowest level of the organisation. It has also decided to conduct such classes on the 50 years’ of CITU and 100 years of formation of the first national trade union centre; annulment of labour laws and the deception of the Rs 20 lakh crore ‘relief package’.
This was decided by the full secretariat of CITU, which met online on May 15, 2020 to assess the present new situation, the challenges it posed and the immediate tasks before the working class at the present juncture. After the discussion based on a note circulated beforehand by the CITU centre, the secretariat unanimously came to the following understanding.
• The lockdown has caused severe distress to the workers, particularly the migrant workers and unorganised workers. These are workers who are indispensable in producing the wealth of our country; in providing services to our country; who create the GDP of our country. Workers, who lived a life of dignity, proudly earning their livelihood through hard work, suddenly find themselves homeless, hungry and compelled to depend on charity, searching for where their next meal would come from. Lakhs of migrant workers have been walking or cycling back to their homes to find solace in the company of their family members, but they are not sure about the future, their work and lives. Agriculture continuing in crisis, there is no guarantee they would be able to sustain themselves on it. They are being deprived of all their entitlements from all segments of governance including the institutions of justice.
• The BJP government led by Modi chose to utilise this situation to crush whatever legal protection the workers had till now. The developments after the lockdown clearly indicate this is a calculated and vicious decision to push its anti-worker, anti-people and anti-national neoliberal agenda. The rapidity with which many state governments announced increase in working hours or annulment of labour laws could not have happened without clear direction and concurrence of the PMO. In stark contrast it was only the LDF government in Kerala which has categorically announced that it was not going to make any anti-worker amendment to the labour laws.
• The attitudes of different political parties towards the workers, was also brought into sharp focus. None of the major political parties have opposed the anti-worker policy direction of the BJP led government. The Congress led governments in Punjab and Rajasthan, as well as the BJD led Odisha government have also adopted similar measures. It was similar to the attitude of these parties in the parliament at the time of voting on the amendments placed by Elamaram Karim, national secretary of CITU. It was only the Left parties that stood by the workers and their basic rights.
• The BJP government led by Modi invoked the National Disaster Management Act to deal with the Covid pandemic and empowered itself with the authority to override state governments, suppress civil liberties, crush dissent and put all citizens under surveillance. The ruling classes want to consolidate their political power and increase their profits while people are immobilised under lockdown.
• The ruling classes see this lockdown as a ‘now or never’ situation, which must be ‘seized’ to push their neoliberal agenda more aggressively, as advocated by some of their ideologues. This they are doing totally unconcerned with the pain and suffering it is causing to crores of toiling people. The cruelty and barbarity of the capitalist system is thus laid bare in all its ugliness, before the people.
• This cruelty, barbarity, ugliness and unjustness of the capitalist system must be exposed before the people, who are losing faith on the bourgeois political parties. The present burning issues of the workers, whether it is loss of jobs, loss of wages and income, loss of shelter, lack of health care etc should be linked to the present policies of the governments and the politics and the system that determine these policies, should be exposed. Alternative policies must be presented to them and confidence on their united strength and united struggles should be developed. All our intellectual, ideological and organisational strength must be mobilised towards exposing the neoliberal order and the capitalist system of which it is a part.
• CITU at all levels must be vigilant towards the divisive machinations of the RSS and its virulent communal outfits and must be in the forefront to thwart any such attempts. Uniting all sections of workers and toiling people, strengthening united struggles to take them to a higher level of resistance and defiance should be taken up as a priority task.
CITU secretariat gained rich experience through the different activities taken up by the organisation during the two month lockdown period. On the basis of these, it has noted that it was able to bring out the feelings of solidarity among the workers and toiling people through the extensive relief work its different committees have taken up all over the country. It was able to mobilise over four lakh people, including workers and their family members in the different protest activities called either independently by CITU and supported by other mass organisations or jointly along with the other central trade unions. It was able to reach these workers in more than 400 districts in the country. All these protest actions were held in more than 40,000-60,000 places – at union offices, workplaces, street corners, house tops or just outside the houses. For the first time, large numbers of family members were involved. There was huge local initiative. While in the initial period, migrant workers who were provided relief by CITU participated in large numbers, later programmes involved mostly local workers, and at union offices and workplaces. Significantly, there was no reduction in the total number of participants.
Based upon this assessment and the experiences, CITU secretariat reiterated the decision of the 16th conference of CITU, that the situation demands that the working class movement must raise united struggles to the level of defiance and resistance. That was the right path for the working class to follow.
The central trade unions in the joint platform of central trade unions and industrial federations broadly shared the same assessment of the present situation as that of CITU. As per the call given by the joint trade union platform, country wide protest day was observed on May 22, which saw magnificent response from the working class. In some states like Maharashtra, two-hour strike was held in 22 units. In Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and some other states, thousands of construction workers held demonstrations demanding relief. All these protests were held while following physical distancing and other lockdown protocols.
This was the background in which the foundation day of CITU was held on May 30. Though reports from all state committees of CITU have not been received, the conclusion of CITU’s Golden Jubilee celebrations was one of the most widely observed programmes. It was observed in a celebratory mood in several states with workers decorating their houses and cutting cakes along with their family members. In many others, workers at their workplaces, union offices and on the streets displayed CITU flags and placards announcing their determination to unitedly fight and defeat the neoliberal agenda of the governments; that they will not allow the government to carry forward the pro-employer amendment to labour laws; that they are not going to let go their hard earned rights; that they will protect the public sector and ensure real self reliance. As per available reports, CITU foundation day was observed in around 50,000 places in 400 districts, in which over four lakhs workers participated, in many places along with their families.
The CITU secretariat meeting which was held online on June 1 reiterated the call of the 16th conference of CITU. It called upon all its members to participate in the solidarity actions in support of the demands raised by the All India Agricultural Workers’ Union in its call for all India protest day on June 4. It has decided to conduct a wide campaign by translating the note adopted in its May 15th meeting into local languages and take it to the lowest level to develop a unified understanding in the entire organisation.
The central trade unions, which met on June 3 also decided to intensify the struggle against the anti-worker, anti-people and anti-national policies of the BJP government. In addition to the issues of retrenchments, wage cuts, increase in working hours, anti-worker amendments to the labour laws, they also decided to focus on the issues of the migrant workers including immediate cash transfer of Rs 7,500 per month and free ration for all migrant workers for six months, effective implementation and expansion of the Interstate Migrant Workers Act, registration of all migrant workers etc, provision of work under MGNREGA to all demanding work including migrant workers. They strongly opposed repeal of the Interstate Migrant Workers’ Act subsuming it into the Code on Occupational Health Safety and Working Conditions.
The meeting decided to observe July 3, 2020 as a Protest Day all over the country focussing on the above demands. It has also decided to observe non cooperation and defiance against the government’s anti-national, anti-people and anti-worker policies, the concrete form of which will be formulated soon.