Saturday, March 24, 2018

The Trade Union Act in India was enacted in the year 1926. Our constitution, `guarantees’ freedom of association. At the international level, India is one of the founders of International Labour Organisation (ILO). ILO was formed in 1919 and India has the distinction of being the only `slave’ country to be among the founders of ILO. But all these did not matter to our ruling classes, Indian monopolies and their organisations, all these years. 

ILO’s core conventions on freedom of association and right to collective bargaining are not ratified by the government of India though they were adopted in the years 1948 and 1949. Despite all these, Indian working class has treated this right of forming a union as a sovereign right and India has a history of trade union movement of more than 110 years. 

The consistent opposition to neo-liberal policies has come from the trade union movement in the country. The efforts of the left trade unions from 1991 have now resulted in the total unity of central organizations of trade unions and also various independent national federations of employees in different sectors, who also have massive following. 

Last two decades have seen 14 countrywide protest strikes and also innumerable sectoral struggles, many of them at National level. All these struggles were basically against the policies of ruling class. 

The countrywide general strike on 28th February 2012 was a land mark in the history of the working class movement is our country; in which more than 10 crores of workers and employees covering almost all the sectors had participated. 

The charter of demands put forward by the united trade union movement covers all the policy issues, that need to be put forward to safeguard the interests of the toiling masses as a whole – Price rise, Universal Public distribution, Employment opportunities, Disinvestment of public sector, trade union rights and implementation of labour laws. These are all directly linked to the economic policies of the neo-liberal regime. These are also the issues taken up by the left organizations in the country, where an alternative policy frame work is also put forward. 

All the central trade unions (BMS, INTUC, AITUC, HMS, CITU, AIUTUC, AICCTU, UTUC, TUCC, SEWA, LPF) supported by thousands of unaffiliated unions have given a two day strike call on 20th and 21st February 2013 on the basis of 10 point demand of the workers as approved in the All India Convention held at Talkatora Stadium on 4th September, 2012. 

Unfortunately Government does not organize a meaningful discussion on the Ten point Charter of Demands. These demands are the basic demands of the crores and crores of ordinary masses of the country. This was acknowledged even by the then Prime Minister of the country. Dr. Manmohan Singh, while inaugurating the 45th Indian Labour Conference on 17th May 2013 said – “The recent two-day strike by trade unions focused on a number of issues relating to the welfare not only of the working class but also the people at large. These include demands on which there can be no disagreement. For example, demands for concrete measures for containing inflation, for generation of employment opportunities, for strict implementation of Labour Laws, are unexceptionable”. He also said “there can however be differences on the best ways of fulfilling these demands and we are willing to engage constructively with the trade unions in this regard”! 

On 25 May 2014 NDA Government led by Sri Narendra Modi took charge. But the economic policies continue the same. 

“Trade unions have been fighting government policies unitedly since 2010 when the UPA was in power. Our action is not against Modi regime but the attitude of ruling dispensations to issues concerning workers,” BMS General Secretary Virjesh Upadhyay said. 

The trade unions, which had unitedly called for a nation-wide strike in 2011 and then in 2012, had managed to get the Manmohan Singh government to set up a Group of Ministers (GoM) to look into their demands. When the BJP-led NDA government came to power, did not have any GoMs but the labour minister assured the trade unions that it will address their concerns 

On 26th May, 2015 the day Modi Government at the Centre completed one year in office, Indian Working class assembled at the Mavlankar Auditorium in the National Capital, New Delhi, in one voice condemned BJP-led NDA Government’s anti worker, anti-peasants, anti-people and pro-corporate, pro-MNC one year’s rule and declared country wide united protests and resistance through General Strike on 2nd September 2015 against these policies and to pursue 12 points charter of demands. 

The strike on September 2, 2015 was 16th country wide strike called by central trade unions since 1991. The last strike was in 20 & 21 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. 

Central trade unions, strike on March 10, 2016 to protest against central as well as some state government's "anti-worker" policies and changes in laws through labour reforms. 

Countrywide General Strike on Sept 2, 2016 

On 2 September 2016, an estimated around 180 million Indian public sector workers went on a 24-hour nationwide General Strike against Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s plans for increasing privatization and other economic policies. A total of ten trade unions participated Many government-run locations and transportation services were closed. The strikers also protested in favour of social security, universal healthcare, and an increased minimum wage. The strike mainly took place in states where opposition parties were the most influential, such as Karnataka and Kerala. It was called the largest strike in human history. 

Less than 4% of workers in India come under labour protection, and even those protections have become more and more eroded. There’s a general sense that instead of targeting poverty they are targeting the poor, and there has been a real running down of spending on essential public services. 

National Convention of CPSW at Bengaluru -29, Sept 2017 

Jointly organized by CITU, AITUC, HMS, INTUC, LPF, Joint Action Front (JAF), Bengaluru and Coordination Committee of CPSU Unions of Hyderabad; a national convention of central public sector workers was held at Bengaluru on 29 January 2017. It was attended by more than four hundred leading representatives of trade unions from all the major central public sector undertakings (CPSU) in the country 

Massive ‘mahapadav’ calls upon the working class (9-11 November 2017) 

The unprecedented joint trade union ‘mahapadav’ of workers concluded in the evening of 11th November 2017 with a clarion call to the working class of the country to intensify the struggle against the anti worker, anti people and anti national policies of the BJP led government. 

The huge mass of workers who gathered from all over the country and from all sectors of the economy enthusiastically endorsed the unanimous call of the leadership of the joint trade union movement, made in the light of the 8th August 2017 national convention, to prepare for an indefinite country wide general strike if the government does not change tack and heed the voice of the working class. The trade unions decided to chalk out a prolonged course of agitations and actions towards that objective. 

The string of actions will start with district level joint conventions to be completed by the first week of January 2018 followed by joint ‘Satyagraha’/ courting of arrest at the district headquarters in the last week of January. The common date for the courting of arrest in all districts in the state will be decided by the joint meeting of the state leadership of the trade unions. 

The BMS which is a part of the programs forced to keep away from the strike by the pressure of BJP leadership. 

The agitations continue till the Govt change its labour policy. 

Prepared by C Sunish. 


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