Thursday, October 1, 2015

'Do not ignore constructive role of trade unions'
by Elamaram Kareem (State general secretary, CITU)

Trade unions are not above criticism. Constructive criticism leads to introspection and a course correction if necessary.

While evaluating the functioning of trade unions in the backdrop of the strike by plantation labourers in Munnar, both positive and negative aspects should be mentioned. However, Onamanorama's Tricks of Trade Unions series does not mention anything about the positive side of trade unions.

Since the days the workers in Alappuzha agitated against the colonial regime for responsible government in 1946, unions have taken up so many agitations on behalf of the people and workers of the state.

Let us move on to more recent times. Reports and photographs of KSRTC employees inviting in more passengers at bus stands in a bid to increase the struggling corporation’s revenue have been published in newspapers including Manorama. The initiative was based on a decision by the CITU. The famed honesty and decent behaviour of auto rickshaw drivers in the Kozhikode city was also moulded to a great extent by trade unions.

Workers movement acted against a bulwark in preventing the closure or privatisation of public sector enterprises in the state. Trade unions also worked with the previous Left Democratic Front government to oppose certain negative tendencies in the Kochi port with an intention to save the port.

If you are trying to criticise the functioning of contemporary trade unions, you have to consider all aspects. A majority of the jobs being created now are not permanent. Most of the workers are temporary contract employees. This has affected workers’ attitudes and the way they organise.

Workers and their organisations are a cross section of society. Workers are also prone to the rotten culture of the neo-liberal age like everyone else. That is not a personal mistake from the part of each individual but errors caused by the circumstances. It is wrong to generalise isolated incidents.

The series of reports mentioned something was amiss in the Kochi Refineries. I had attended a tripartite meeting called by the Labour Minister ahead of the start of the Rs 20,000 crore infrastructure development project. Trade unions were part of the decision to let contractors choose the labourers depending on the nature of the work. A review meeting convened by the Chief Minister on September 16 found the progress in the work to be satisfactory. Wasn’t the stand by the trade unions praiseworthy?

I came across an allegation that someone was drawing the wages without working in the Head Load Workers Union in Kochi. We view it very seriously.

The quote from the CPM resolution proves how the CITU treats undesirable trends in the labour sector. The sincerity behind forming such a policy has to be recognised.

The toiling class have to be the ruling power of the country. The CITU is working towards that goal. We will learn from any strike and review our strategies. We will listen to criticism from any quarters.


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