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Anti-labour laws bring unity of purpose in trade unions

The 45th Session of the Standing Labour Committee (SLC), held in Delhi, on 3 January, 2013, set the Agenda for the Indian Labour Conference (ILC) – the apex labour tripartite in the country.

The schedule of the 45th ILC Session is expected to be announced by the Labour Ministry soon. The ILC is required to meet once and the SLC twice in a year. This schedule of the two labour bodies is seldom adhered to. The SLC actually has been meeting only once in a year and that too only to finalise the agenda for the ILC session.

The Standing Labour Committee settled four-point agenda for the coming ILC. The first point of the agenda is to settle the service conditions of the scheme workers. They include Anganwadi Workers and Helpers, Workers engaged in ASHA, Mid-Day Meals, Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan. Around five million workers (women) are employed in these schemes. They are all adhoc workers given fixed monthly wages without any other facilities.

It may be recalled that the Anganwadi Workers and Helpers were the first among them who got organised and raised their voice for better wages. They succeeded in getting raise in monthly wages but their service conditions remained the same. Not all are getting even statutory minimum wages of different states.

The second point of the agenda is assured pension for all. The third point is separate labour laws for small and medium industries., and the fourth, employment and employability. This point has always been stressed by employers to emphasise that more employment can be created if the labour laws are flexible and focus on skill development.

It is important to take note of the fact that this time the Indian Labour Conference whenever it is convened by the Labour Ministry, will meet in the backdrop of unity among central trade union organisations (CTUOs) as never before.

It can be seen from the agenda chalked out by the SLC, especially its emphasis on the need for service conditions for Anganwadi Workersetc.

All CTUOs are fully aware of the Prime Minister’s pro-employers attitude. This attitude of Dr Manmohan Singh had pushed even the pro-Congress INTUC into the common fold of the other ten central trade union organisations which include BMS, AITUC, HMS, CITU, AIUTUC, TUCC, AICCTU, UTUC, LPF and SEWA. Five of these including INTUC, have nationwide influence in industrial workers while others are relatively smaller organisations. It is no secret that all these CTUOs including INTUC are together resorting to a two-day nationwide general strike on 20 -21 February, 2013 in protest against Government’s anti-labour and pro-corporate policies.

Labour movement observers seem sure that whenever the ILC is convened and whatever be its agenda, its deliberations would be deeply impacted by the growing discontent in the labour movement against the UPA-II Government’s patently anti-labour policies.

Since Manmohan Singh took over the reigns of the UPA government, he adopted unprecedented anti-labour approach.
 
He refused to acknowledge charter of demands of CTUOs, refused to meet them to discuss their demands. The 11-CTUOs who sent their joint demand charter to all authorities including PMO, got no response. Manmohan Singh’s address at the ILC sessions on corporate-centric line in future will have to face the representatives of the united labour movement. (IPA)
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