On Labour Day, trade unions assert their relevance
With the rise of corporate power in the country, is the trade union movement on the wane? On International Labour Day, stakeholders across the political spectrum, however, assert to the contrary, insisting the fight for labour rights has intensified.
The RSS-affiliated Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh (BMS), however, while observing that trade union movement has evolved from being anti-industry, said only the Left-affiliated labour movement has lost relevance.
"It's the Left model of trade union movement which is dying. Labour movement led by the Left philosophy has completely lost its relevance. Its because of this fact that it is being presumed that trade union movement has weakened," BMS General Secretary Virjesh Upadhyay told IANS.
He said the Left trade unionism was characterised by hooliganism and disruptions which led to its demise.
"Because of the Left, trade unionism only meant strikes, lockouts and hooliganism in the name of protests. Workers are aware now that these practices are not just irrelevant but counter-productive," added Upadhyay.
The Trinamool Congress-affiliated Indian National Trinamool Trade Union Congress (INTTUC) expressed a similar view.
"Because you don't see lockouts, strikes or workers going on rampage doesn't mean trade unions are dead or they are incapable of securing and protecting labour rights. The Left parties are gone and with them gone are the days of disruptive labour movement," INTTUC President Dola Sen told IANS.
She maintained that to protect workers' interests, it was imperative that industry was given a congenial environment to grow.
"Our motto is save labour, save industry. You cannot secure workers' interests by jeopardising industries through disruptive practices. Left trade unions are examples of how labour movement should not be," said Sen. She blamed the erstwhile CPI-M-led Left Front government in West Bengal for destroying industry and work culture in the state.
Sen also said the government has an integral role in settling industrial disputes.
"Other trade unions prefer bipartite settlement of disputes that facilitate under-the-table compromises. We believe in active involvement of the government and this has yielded desired results - zero loss of mandays and increased protection of workers' rights and improved worker-industry relationship," said Sen.
The CPI-M affiliated Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU) rejected the allegations of being disruptive and said under the Narendra Modi regime, workers' rights are increasingly under threat.
"Under the pro-corporate Modi regime, there have been increased attacks on labour rights. It is mostly because of trade unions like the BMS and the INTTUC pro-government and pro-corporate approach," CITU Vice President A. Soundararajan told IANS.
He said the Modi government, in the name of "ease of doing business", was "drastically diluting" labour laws and taking away workers' rights.
"When the corporates do not approve of your tactics and ways of protests, it means you are on the right path, it is a certificate that our protests and movement is yielding a result," he said, dismissing the charge of "hooliganism".
However, the Congress-affiliated Indian National Trade Union Congress (INTUC), contended that trade unions were becoming weak and called for building up unity to take on the Modi government.
"This government doesn't believe in cooperation and consultation," INTUC President G. Sanjeeva Reddy said, blaming Modi's "rigid" and "adamant" attitude for the trade unions becoming weak.
"There is a need for the labour unions to strengthen themselves and collectively confront the Modi government," he added.