CENTRAL TRADE UNIONS REASSERT THE CALL FOR UNITED ACTION
MARCH AHEAD UNITEDLY, MAKE THE COUNTRYWIDE GENERAL STRIKE ON 2ND SEPTEMBER A MASSIVE SUCCESS
After two rounds of discussion between the Group of Ministers and the central trade unions on the 12-point charter of demands of the trade unions held on 26th and 27th August 2015, the GoM headed by Finance Minister, Shri Arun Jaitley sent an appeal through the press release dated 27-08-2015 (Press Information Bureau) after 10 pm urging upon the trade unions to reconsider the call for countrywide general strike on 2nd September 2015 claiming that the Govt has given concrete assurance to consider most of the demands of the trade unions and that the trade unions agreed to consider the Govt’s proposals. Similar appeal was also made in the meeting of 27th August. Both the claims of the Govt are totally incorrect.
To put the facts straight, the joint platform of central trade unions have been pursuing with successive governments at the centre with their basic demands since 2009 and observed three rounds of countrywide general strike since 2010, the last being for two days in February 2013. In the two rounds of meeting between the CTUOs and the Group of Minister, nothing transpired in concrete terms except vague statements by the ministers on steps to be taken or being taken on some of the issues, that too not in the right direction.
The Govt’s press release mentioned, inter alia, certain issues in support of their unfounded claim.
1. The Govt stated about “appropriate legislation for making formula based minimum wages mandatory and applicable” for all. But despite concrete pointers made by the trade unions that such formula should be what has already been unanimously recommended by the 44th Indian Labour Conference in 2012 and again reiterated by 46th Indian Labour Conference in July 2015 in which the Govt of India is also a party, the Ministers did not give any concrete commitment on the same. In fact said formulae recommended by 44th ILC in 2012 and reiterated by 46th ILC in July 2015, makes minimum wage around Rs 20000/- at 2014 price level and the Trade Unions demanded only Rs 15,000/. The Ministers’ vague formulation does not ensure even half of that. Is such a position worth consideration?
2. On contract workers, the Govt assured that they will be guaranteed minimum wages. What is there to assure except spreading deliberate confusion? Existing laws of the land lawfully ensures payment of minimum wages to contract workers. The Govt’s statement regarding “sector specific minimum wages for the contract workers” also does not make any sense. The trade unions demanded “same wages and other benefits as regular workers in the concerned industry/establishment to be paid to contract workers.” The 43rd Indian Labour Conference held in 2011 recommended the same and 46th ILC unanimously reiterated the same in 2015, in which, again, the present Govt is a party. How could they deny the unanimous recommendation of the highest tripartite forum in the country like Indian Labour Conference?
3. The steps taken by the Govt on Labour Law amendments, are meticulously designed to throw out more than 70% of the workers on industries and other establishments from the purview and coverage of almost all basic labour laws and also to eliminate almost all components/provisions of rights and protections of the workers. This was supplemented by more aggressive steps already taken by a good number of state governments to already amend the labour laws in the similar lines. On this issue, the Govt stated only that they will hold tripartite consultation before taking such steps. The trade unions demanded scrapping of such proposals by the central govt and also not to give assents (through President) to the unilateral amendments made by the state governments. Even in all the tripartite consultations held on some of the proposals of the Govt, the trade unions’ unanimous suggestions has been ignored by the Govt in favour of loud supportive applauds of the employers. Once these retrograde changes in labour laws totally dismantling the rights and protection measures for the workers and also throwing more that 70% of the workers out of the purview of labour laws are enacted, thereby rendering the almost entire working people a right-less entity in their workplace, what would ensure even payment of minimum wage and other social security benefits for them, even if those provisions are improved ? Can any trade union, worth its name accept such a machination designed to impose conditions of virtual slavery on the working people ?
4. Despite repeated insistence by all the trade unions, the Govt refused to concede to the demand for recognizing the Scheme workers, viz., Anganwadi, Mid-day meal, ASHA, Para-teachers and others as “worker” with attendant rights of statutory minimum wages and other benefits in gross violation of the unanimous recommendation of the 45thIndian Labour Conference in 2013, reiterated again by the 46th ILC in 2015. These workers and all the schemes have been put to further crisis threatening their existence owing to drastic cut in budgetary allocations for those schemes. In such a situation, does the assurance of the Govt to “extend social security measures” and “working out ways” for the same carry any meaning?
5. On bonus issue, the Govt has assured to revise the eligibility and calculation ceiling to Rs 21000/- and Rs 7000/- respectively from existing Rs 10000/- and Rs 3500/-. Trade Unions’ demand has been that since there is no ceiling on profit, all ceilings in the Payment of Bonus Act should be removed altogether. Trade unions also demanded substantial upward revision of the formula for gratuity calculation and remove the ceiling on gratuity payment. The Govt has negated the demands.
6. On price rise situation, claim of the Govt that it has gone down does not match with ground reality in respect of commodities for daily necessities of the common people. The demands of the trade unions for putting a ban on speculation/forward trading in essential commodities and services along with universalisation of public distribution system throughout the country have been totally ignored.
7. Trade Unions demanded stoppage of disinvestment in public sector undertakings playing crucial and supportive role in advancement of the national economy. Govt totally ignored the same, rather has been going on aggressively in disinvestment route in all the major PSUs much to the detriment of the interest of the country’s economy. On the demands for stoppage of further FDI in defence, railways and financial sector, the stance of the Govt is continuing to be a total denial. Rather, the Govt has been aggressively pursuing deregulation and privatization in strategic sectors like electricity, Port & Docks, Airports etc in a big way.
There are other issues as well, statement of Govt continued to be totally vague and their claim is unfounded. How can anybody, rather any trade union worth its name can consider above stands taken by the Govt on vital demands of the workers as a positive development and move out from the programme of united strike action ?
Therefore, there is absolutely no reason for reconsidering the decisions of the Central Trade Unions for countrywide general strike on 2nd September 2015. Rather, the situation demands that there should be no vascillation in carrying forward the call for general strike on 2nd September 2015 throughout the country in all sectors of the economy with firm determination.
The Central Trade Unions appeal to all working people irrespective of affiliations to make the call for countrywide general strike against the anti-worker, anti-people policies of Govt a massive success.
Tapan SenGeneral Secretary CITU