Millennium Post

Workers, united we stand

The central trade union organisations (CTUOs) have come to the conclusion that they have to resort to a ‘higher form’ of nationwide action to force the United Progressive Alliance-II government headed by Manmohan Singh to change its anti-worker and corporate-centric economic policies.

All the CTUOs including Building Management System (BMS), Indian National Trade Union Congress (INTUC), All India Trade Union Congress (AITUC), Hind Mazdoor Sabha (HMS), Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU), All India United Trade Union Centre (AIUTUC), Trade Union Coordination Committee (TUCC), All India Central Council of Trade Unions (AICCTU), United Trade Union Congress (UTUC), Labour Progressive Front (LPF) and Self-Employed Women’s Association (SEWA) came to this conclusion at their joint meeting held in Delhi at the BMS office last month.

The formal decision on what should be the higher form of struggle would be taken at a National Convention, some call it Workers’ Parliament, scheduled to be held on 4 September, at the Talkatora Stadium in Delhi.

There are different views on the likely higher form of action. One view is that they should call for a nationwide general strike of longer duration. Other view is that it should take the form of gherao of, say, Parliament. Though such a gherao will invite government suppression, for which workers should have to be prepared, but it will invite the attention of the Parliamentarians and the nation as a whole, it is argued.

The call for a ‘higher form’ is being given because during the last three years the CTUOs had resorted to nationwide protest demonstrations, dharnas even at the Parliament House, courted arrests during Jail Bharo Andolan and also held massive unprecedented one-day general strike. Manmohan Singh government however remained unmoved.

In this backdrop, the CTUOs are taking measures to ensure that the 4 September National Convention has the widest representation of workers of all orientation as well as of independent unions and federations. The CTUOs have called upon their affiliated unions everywhere to start preparations for the National Convention immediately at the grassroots level, employing every form of agitation to mobilise workers for joining whatever ‘higher form’ of struggle is decided at the Convention on 4 September.

Simultaneously, the CTUOs’ effort is ‘to turn the convention into the broadest form of national unity of the workers for unleashing resistance against neo-liberalism’ of the government. This is considered necessary to make any higher form of struggle effective.

The July meeting of the CTUOs took stock of the economic situation and the framework of their demand charter. They decided to adhere to the 10-point demand charter but realised that that would not be enough. The demand charter focussed on demand like enforcing minimum wage for all categories of workers including contract workers and that this minimum wage should not be less than Rs 10,000 per month. It also demands strict enforcement of labour laws, right of the workers to form unions and get registration within a stipulated period of time; mandatory recognition of trade unions in all establishments. In addition, the charter also demands eight hours working time for all categories workers besides same wage for same work for contract workers and end to disinvestment.

The economic situation having worsened, the CTUOs took into account the fact that the growth of the economy had fallen low to 5.2 per cent, index of industrial production declined to even less that one per cent, external value of rupee was consistently depreciating; investment was declining, export was going down. All this meant that ‘all ominous consequences of neo-liberalism had held the economy hostage’, the CTUOs’ resolution underlined. As a result, inflation was high, retail inflation reaching double digit, working people losing real wages and living in intolerable distress, were worst victim of the government policies, they said and also called for ‘effective steps to control inflation and curb recession’.

It is observed that this is the first time that the CTUOs analysed the economic situation of the country and could see that the 10-point demand charter need to be supplemented because government’s policies were undermining workers’ living conditions in many more ways which they had not taken into consideration earlier. But, this time, the central trade unions chose to express deep concern at the ‘government’s failure to contain inflation particularly that of food prices and protect the economy from a serious peril of recession grossly affecting the working masses.’

This new analysis of the economy and formulation of CTUOs’ demands accordingly, would certainly bridge the gap between the organised and unorganised labour but between them and large mass of urban and rural middle segments of population who keep suffering due to their tendency to look upto the government.

The CTUOs’ meeting, for instance, this time said it ‘stubbornly opposes the move of the government to curtail budgeted allocations for various social security schemes including NREGA; Pradan Mantri Sadak Yojna, even ICDS meant for child welfare and childbearing women.

The amount government seeks to withdraw is nearly Rs 90,000 crores’.  They said that the Government even sought to reduce the market borrowing meant to meet the gap between expenditure and revenue.

The CTUOs’ charged that this measure ‘reflecting World Bank prescription’ would hit growth and development grossly affecting employment and hurting all categories of working people. They specifically noted that while there was no talk of expanding public distribution system to curb human distress due to inflation, government officials were suggesting withdrawal of all forms of subsidy.
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