Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Ahead of a planned national strike on September 2, central trade unions, including the Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh (BMS), will spend the next few months galvanising their support base across districts and sectors.

To begin with, trade unions will distribute pamphlets about the national convention declaration, signed by 11 central labour union leaders on May 26, across states. The declaration had attacked the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government for proposed changes to labour and land laws and non-fulfilment of labour demands.

“Together, we will prepare our cadre for a campaign at the grass-root level. In factories, unions will work collectively to ensure the participation of workers is huge. Independently, there will be meetings of countrywide working committees and industry-wise federations, such as those from the banking sector, insurance and defence,” said A K Padmanabhan, president of the Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU).

For sectors or factories with no trade unions, general campaigns will be held. Central trade union leaders will attend conventions across states.

CITU plans to distribute a 12-page booklet to about 200,000 workers. This will inform workers about the changes to various labour laws, including the Industrial Disputes Act and the Employees’ Provident Fund Act. The booklet is loaded with criticism of the NDA government’s policy changes and has sub-heads such as ‘lie campaign to befool people’, ‘united combat – the need of the hour’ and ‘labour laws – more violated than implemented’.

To mark 60 years of its inception, BMS will organise year-long celebrations from July 23. The shashthipoorti, or 60th anniversary, is aimed at exhibiting the union’s strength on the ground at a time when many in the trade union circles are accusing it of being “soft” on the central government, headed by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), a fellow Sangh Parivar organisation.

“These celebrations will be our show of strength,” said a BMS leader. The union will ask all members to hoist the BMS flag in the presence of at least 10 people from their neighbourhood. The union claims it has a membership of 17.1 million and plans to raise this to 20 million.

“The government has been spreading the perception that labour laws are a hurdle in development. But a Reserve Bank of India report has said only four per cent industries are affected because of labour law issues,” said Pawan Kumar, organising secretary of the BMS.

The strike on September 2 will be the 16th called by central trade unions since 1991. The last strike was in February 2013, when trade unions had made many demands, including containing inflation, minimum wages and universal social security. Trade unions claim about 120 million workers from the organised and unorganised sectors had participated in the two-day strike.

“This time, we will conduct our campaign more vehemently. We will expand the participation rate of workers consciously. The basic difference is a 10-point charter of demands was the main issue in 2013; this time, the government is threatening to take more action in terms of labour law changes,” Padmanabhan said.

“We know a one-day strike will not change the government’s policies but this will warn the government that we are ready for a fight,” Gurudas Dasgupta, general-secretary of the All India Trade Union Congress, had said at a national convention of workers on May 26.

“This strike must act as a strong warning to the BJP-led government that the working class of the country, which has a great history of struggles and sacrifices, is not going to let these attacks pass. In its fight against the attacks on its basic rights, the working class has to seek and gain the support of all sections of the people,” says the CITU handout, to be distributed to workers soon.


Pamphlets of national convention declaration, signed by 11 central trade unions, to be distributed in many languages
Labour unions to jointly hold conventions and campaigns at state, district and industry levels in June, July
Central trade union leaders will visit state conventions
General campaign in industry with no trade unions
CITU to distribute 200,000 booklets, explaining to workers the changes in labour laws
BMS will mark its 60th anniversary in July with a year-long celebration to garner support

The figure of 12 million workers in the 4th last para has been modified to 120 million workers.


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