Saturday, April 19, 2014

MAY DAY Notice -2014


          Unfortunately in India some of us have the infamous practice of relating just any incident with a concocted story.   May Day incident too was not spared;   it was widely perceived that it was on this day that the Red Flag (soaked in blood) was born on the streets of Chicago. It is far from the truth.  The Chicago Streets reverberated with chorus of slogans demanding Eight hours working day by hundreds of demonstrators/workers who held red flags. The red flag was not born on that day and that too at Chicago.  The flag of the organization, Communist League of 1848 for which Marx & Engels wrote the manifesto was Red.  In 1871 the flag was unfurled by the Communards in Paris Commune was red. There is a symbol related to colors.  White denotes peace/surrender, Black denotes sorrow, Green denotes prosperity, and Red denotes protest.  Red was always used by `revolutionaries’ and it was not born in Chicago on May Day in 1886.  
           Moreover the Hay Market Incident at Chicago occurred on 4th May 1886 and not on 1st May, 1886.   It is true that the streets of Chicago witnessed huge assembly of protesters demanding 8 hour working day on 1st May 1886.   40,000 workers were present in these demonstrations at Chicago on May 1st 1886. The demonstrations were very much peaceful and not fired upon.  The Strikes continued on the 2nd and 3rd May as well.   On the 3rd May at McCormick Farm Machinery Plant, using the pretext of clashes between strikers and strike breakers police opened fire killing six workers.  The Hay Market meeting was called on 4th May to protest against these killings.  The meeting was peaceful, till the police appeared at the end.  An unidentified person hurled a bomb killing one police man and wounding five people on that fateful day at the Hay Market.  The State of Illinois which governs Chicago exploited this incident to suppress the working class movement.  Eight worker leaders of Chicago, seven of whom had left the meeting place before the bombing were arrested and jailed.   Ultimately four leaders were hanged on 11th Nov, 1887.   Their names are Albert Parsons, August Spies, George Engel, and Adolph Fischer.  In 1893 the Governor of Illinois accepted that the trial had been patently unjust, condemning the entire judicial system.  The Jury was offered money by the Chicago Tribune if it found the eight men guilty.                                                                        
           The words of Spies: “There will come a time when our Silence will be more vocal than our Words” were prophetic as May Day became International and the voices became deafening.  Hence it is very clear that the story which originated in India about the birth of the Red Flag in Chicago is fabricated.  There is no mention of this stupid story even in the US history.
            Not many lives were lost in the Hay Market on May 4th, only one Policeman died due to the Bomb burst by anarchists that day.   The four trade union leaders sentenced to death and executed at Chicago in connection with this incident were the real Martyrs.  It is in commemoration of these Chicago Martyrs a Resolution was passed in the first conference of the Second International in 1889 at Paris on the centenary of the French Revolution to declare May 1st as Labour Day.  


        Rail workers have played a crucial and leading role in the history of the Indian Trade Union movement.   The struggles conducted by rail workers had begun in the 19th century itself. The first war of Indian Independence, as is well known, had begun in 1857.  Within a couple of years, there have been struggles by railway workers, in different places.  Those struggles were all local involving a few workers.
         One of the important struggle, a really historic one, was the struggle of railway workers in Howrah, in Bengal, involving about 1200 workers.  It is historic in two ways.   One the demand - The demand of the strike was for 8 hours of work a day.    Two, it happened during April-May 1862.
         The historic importance of this struggle is that even before forming a proper trade union, a strike demanding 8 hours of work had been conducted.   This had happened in Indian Railway, 24 years ahead of the struggle of Chicago workers for 8 hours of work!


          Loco Running Staff were waging for limiting the working hours from 1960 onwards.  The historic strike of loco men in Aug 1973 was a land mark.   An agreement was signed between the Government of India and AILRSA on 14.08.1973; limiting the working hours to 10 hours.
         The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Railways headed by Com. Basudeb Acharia submitted their report on 22.12.2004, recommending limitation of duty hours of Loco Running Staff to 8 hours. 
         The SPAD meeting minutes (14.06.2012) also recommended to limit working hours,  continuous night duties, and improve the working conditions etc.
          AILRSA Madurai Division approached Regional Labour Commissioner challenging the Continuous classification.  After conducting a detailed Job Analysis of the engine crew, RLC/Chennai recommended for Intensive Classification.   But panic-struck GM/SR appealed to the Ministry of Labour and Joint Secretary Ministry of Labour which upheld the RLC decision.  The hell-bent Railways administration has now approached the Honorable High Court of Chennai.
           Though various committees headed by renowned judicial members like Justice. G.S. Rajadhyaksha(1946), Justice. N.M. Miabhoy(RLT-1969), Justice. H.R. Khanna(RSRC-1998),  and various trade unions recommended to reduce the duty hours of running staff for the sake of safety in Railways and the wellbeing of the workers,  the callous HPC (High Power Committee) has not bothered to recommend  reduction of the total working hours below 10 hours. 
          The relentless, untiring and valiant struggles launched by  AILRSA has resulted in opening the eyes of the  Government of India.   Realizing and recognizing the disputes raised by AILRSA, consisting of  four  major demands, which involve question of National importance and the need to address and resolve them  has  prompted the Government of India to constitute through the ministry of labour , a National Industrial Tribunal(NIT),  under the Industrial disputes Act,1947, on 27-01-2012. Arguments of the Case are still going on.    Next hearing is posted on 05.05.2014.


          Alas !  the situation prevailing in Chicago during 1886 continues to exist in the Indian Railways even today in 2014.  It is for the working people to find a way out of the situation.  Eight hours work, 48 hours a week was the demand in 19th century and it still remains in our charter in the 21st century also.  The exploitation continues.  It’s high time we awoke from our slumber and continued our struggle. 
         The essence of reduction of working hours is ultimately reduction in the level of exploitation.  For an efficient and effective struggle it has to be linked to the struggle for change in the system itself, a system where exploitation of man by man ceases to exist.  
          “And I long to see the day when labour will have the destiny of the nation in her own hands, and she will stand as a united force and show the world what the workers can do.” – Mary Harris
  Let us march unitedly towards that,  and  let us struggle unitedly.

AILRSA SWR organising May Day rallies in front of all Crew Booking Lobby’s by 10.30 hrs on 01.05.2014, jointly with NREU, AISMA & AIGC


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