massive ‘Mahapadav’ near Parliament

Rate this item
(2 votes)

For Decent and Dignified Work
To Protect Our Basic Rights
To Save the Nation for the Future of Our Children

Forward to the massive ‘Mahapadav’ near Parliament on 9-11 November 2017

The joint national convention of central trade unions and industrial federations, held in Delhi on 8th August 2017 gave the historic call for a massive ‘mahapadav’ near Parliament on 9-11 November 2017.

This ‘mahapadav’ is intended as a warning for the Modi led BJP government at the centre, which appears to be drunk with power that the workers of this country will no more take its onslaughts on their lives and living conditions, on their basic rights at the workplace, on their fundamental right for a decent and dignified life, lying down. The national convention declared that if the BJP government continues with its neoliberal agenda of making the workers, the toiling people sacrificial lambs at the altar of the big domestic and foreign corporates, to help them amass wealth at the cost of the workers who produce that wealth, the working class will have no other way than to go for an indefinite country wide strike. The national convention called upon the working class to prepare for such an eventuality.

The demands raised by the workers are not new. These are demands raised by the entire trade union movement of the country, including those who chose to desert the joint movement a couple of years back, just two days before the countrywide general strike of 2nd September 2015. They are the demands of the entire working class, in fact, entire toiling and patriotic people of our country. The joint trade union movement has been raising them since 2009. It has raised these demands when the Congress led UPA was in power. It has been raising them during the last three years, when the BJP led NDA government under Prime Minister Modi is in power.

The situation became more grave, the onslaught on the conditions of the workers and toiling people have become more severe since the BJP led government came to power at the centre with a majority of its own. This government has hastened implementation of neoliberal policies, which in essence are meant to transfer wealth, the public resources from the people to the big corporates, domestic and foreign. Disinvestment and privatisation of the public sector, amendments to the labour laws on the pretext of improving ‘ease of doing business’, demonetisation etc are all meant for this.

All its promises of providing 2 crores jobs every year, of bringing down the prices, of ‘sabka saath; sabka vikas’, of ‘acche din’, of bringing back black money stashed in foreign banks and depositing Rs 15 lakh in each person’s bank account – every single promise has fallen flat. Instead, today, the economy is in an absolute mess. Modi saab’s highly personalised and publicised initiatives for demonetisation has wrecked havoc with the lives of the workers, particularly the unorganised sector workers and the small and medium enterprises and traders. The GST has not only attacked the rights of the state governments in our federal system, but it has led to increase in the taxes and rise in the prices of most of the commodities used by the common people including essential items like medicines. Lakhs of small traders are affected and in turn the workers, mostly the unorganised workers working for them.

But the government is trying to camouflage its failures with slogans – ‘Make in India’, ‘Skill India’, ‘Start Up India’, ‘Swatch Bharat’ etc. Struggling peasants are killed. Workers fighting for their rights are beaten up by the police.

On the other hand, while the workers and the common people are suffering because of the policies of the government led by the BJP with a former RSS pracharak as the Prime Minister, the guide and guru of BJP, the RSS is using its various outfits across the country to ensure that the workers, the people do not come together and unitedly fight against these policies. They seek to divide the people on the basis of religion, caste etc. The so called ‘gau rakshaks’ are on the prowl across the country lynching, stabbing and killing dalits and minorities, particularly the muslim minorities. Ironically, dalits are lynched and killed by these Manuwadi mobs for doing the work assigned to them – of skinning dead cows - by the Manuwadi society itself. How atrocious and shameful!

State authority is used to impose the ideology of the RSS on the entire country. State institutions are filled with RSS ideologues, not persons of eminence in their fields committed to the Indian Constitution. Attempts are made to destroy and tear apart our secular society. Scientific thinking is attacked. Unscientific ideas, myths are promoted as science, by none other than the Prime Minister. Rationalist voices, voices that oppose their policies, their ideology are sought to be suppressed by killing – Dhabolkar, Pansare, Kalburgi, Gauri Lankesh, Santanu Bhowmik - the list goes on. They think that by disrupting the unity of the people and creating an atmosphere of terror and mistrust in the society, they can sustain their exploitative rule. It is time to tell them that they are mistaken. The working class will not allow it.

Over seventy years back our forefathers have fought for and achieved Independence from British imperialism. They fought for a secular self reliant country; for a country where all our people would enjoy equal rights. They fought for our people to live a dignified and decent life free from poverty, illiteracy, ill health. Today, a party which had no role in our struggle for independence is carrying out policies that would negate all these objectives for which our forefathers sacrificed their lives. The government is handing over our natural resources, our land, our mines, our forests, our waters etc to the private corporations, domestic and foreign. 100% FDI is being allowed in many sectors including strategic sectors like defence, railways, insurance, banking etc. Big multinational companies are being invited to come and exploit our workers, offering them cheap labour and union free work places. Our patriotic people are being misguided by raising false slogans of ‘nationalism’ to camouflage these anti national policies.

It is time for the working class to decisively fight these, anti worker, anti people and anti national policies, and defeat them. For, it is only the working class that can lead such fight. At the same time we have to seek and take the support of all the other sections of the toiling people, particularly the farmers, agricultural workers, the artisans etc to broaden the struggle.

We have to put into practice our slogans ‘Reach the unreached’ and ‘Link up issues with policies ; expose politics behind the policies’, adopted in our conferences.

This booklet, dealing with some major demands raised by the joint trade union movement, is aimed to help these efforts.

Contain price rise of essential commodities! Strengthen public distribution system!

The prices of essential commodities, food, medicines, house rents, health, education, transport have been continuously going up. But the wages for most of the workers, particularly in the unorganised sector, continue to remain the same.

Workers have been particularly hit by the rise in food prices in the past 3 years. Prices of meat, fish, eggs, milk and milk products have gone up by nearly 25%, while prices of vegetables and fruits have zoomed up by 55%. This has led many working people families to stop eating these nutritious protein rich items. In other words the Modi government’s failure to control prices is directly responsible for snatching away food from the mouths of workers and their children.

Why are food prices rising?

Are the peasants who produce our food getting higher prices? Are they getting richer? Are they experiencing ‘Acche Din’?

NO. The cost of inputs for agriculture, fertilisers, pesticides, seeds etc have gone up. But the peasants are not getting remunerative prices. In many places they are burning their crops, throwing them on highways or distributing free to the people as mark of protest because they do not even get the cost of transport to take them to the markets.

Most of the peasants do not get cheap institutional credit. They are compelled to borrow from private money lenders at high interests. Unable to repay their debts many farmers are committing suicide. In the last twenty years, around 3 lakh farmers have committed suicide. Agriculture continues to be in crisis.

Agriculture has become unviable for the poor and middle farmers. Lakhs of farmers are compelled to leave cultivation and sell off their land at throw away prices which again benefits the rich corporate landlords. Land reforms, distribution of land to the landless agricultural workers and poor peasants is no more even being talked. Instead, a reverse transfer of land is taking place today – a new form of primitive accumulation by the big corporations and land lords.

Now, who is benefiting from the rise in food prices? Where is our money going? – Into the pockets of big traders and big business. The periodic spikes in prices of some essential items especially, vegetables like onions, tomatoes etc is mainly due to cartels of big traders who hoard and manipulate the prices of these vegetables. The big corporate traders are engaged in hoarding and speculation in commodity market, particularly in food and related commodities. It is these speculators who are becoming richer and richer while the working poor are forced to go hungry.

In addition, the drastic curtailment of subsidies on fuel and fertilisers, deregulation of electricity tariff and various other public utility services is creating a cascading effect on the already rising prices.

The government is dismantling the public distribution system on the one hand. Large numbers of people have already been pushed out of its purview through a ridiculous poverty line. The Food Security Act is yet to be implemented in most parts of the country. The government has decided upon cash transfers to bank accounts linked to Aadhar. It has decided to allow FDI in multi brand retail trade on the deceptive pretext that this would bring down prices and provide better returns to the farmers, even when worldwide experience proves otherwise.

Thus, the working people - working in the factories or mines, in the offices, schools or colleges or in the hospitals or in the fields - are being made sacrificial lambs to increase the profits of the corporate traders’ lobby, both domestic and foreign.

The BJP led Modi government has fast tracked the cruel policy of privatisation of essential services for the poor – medical care, education, banking, insurance etc. As a result the cost of all these have skyrocketed and are going beyond the reach of the common people. Doctors’ fees, charges for medical tests, admission fees etc are 5-10 times more in the unscrupulous private hospitals. Many medicines have gone out of bounds for the common people. Workers, employees and common people cannot access education in private schools and colleges while the standards in the government schools and colleges are deliberately brought down by the government.

In order to increase its own revenue, this government has maintained the prices of essential fuels like petrol and diesel at high levels even though their prices have fallen by 50% in the world. In May 2014, the price of crude oil bought by Indian govt. was $107 per barrel. Three years later, in September 2017 it was half of that at $54 per barrel. By increasing taxes, the government has maintained the price of petrol at about Rs.71 per litre and diesel at Rs.58 per litre. The surplus is now lying in government treasury while this has caused transport prices to keep rising thereby raising prices of all commodities.

In short, this BJP government’s total failure to curb prices – a promise it had made while seeking votes in 2014 – has thrust all working people and employees of the country into the furnace of poverty. Prices are not rising by themselves. The government’s policies are deliberately designed to result in price rise to benefit the big traders, middlemen and big business. That is the reason for price rise causing misery to ordinary people.

Our demands -

• Strengthen and universalise the public distribution system
• Ban speculation and futures trading in essential commodities, are totally justified and implementable, if the government has the political will.

Minimum wage of not less than Rs 18000 for all including scheme workers; link minimum wage with Consumer Price Index

The Seventh Pay Commission for the central government employees appointed by the BJP led government has recommended Rs 18000 as minimum wage. According to the Seventh Pay Commission, this was based upon the formula unanimously adopted by the 15th Indian Labour Conference (ILC) and the directions of the Supreme Court in the Raptakos and Brett case, which was reiterated by the 44th ILC in 2012 (during UPA regime) and again by the 46th ILC in 2015 (during BJP rule).

The formula evolved by the 15th ILC for fixing minimum wage and the Supreme Court directions are as follows:

1) Per capita food intake of at least 2700 calories for a worker’s family comprising three units (2 adults and 2 children)

2) Per capita cloth of at least 18 yards per annum

3) Provision of housing as per minimum rent charged by government industrial housing scheme for low-income category

4) Fuel, lighting, miscellaneous expenditures to constitute 20 per cent of the total minimum wage.

5) The Supreme Court Judgment (1992) stipulated additional 25 per cent of the minimum wage for education, medical expense, recreation and provision of old age and marriage to be taken into account while fixing minimum wage.

The Confederation of Central Government Employees and Workers has challenged this recommendation on the grounds that the minimum wage should be Rs 26000 on the basis of the ILC recommendation and Supreme Court directions at the prices prevalent in 2015

However, the BJP led government has accepted the recommendation of the Seventh Pay Commission and decided the minimum wage of Rs 18000 for the central government employees.

The ILC recommendations and Supreme Court directions for minimum wages are the same for all workers and employees. Prices are the same for everybody. In fact, prices of almost all essential commodities, particularly food, have increased since 2015.

Hence, the demand of Rs 18000 minimum wage is absolutely justified. The government should immediately concede the demand.

But what the government is doing?

Instead of amending the Minimum Wages Act accordingly, the BJP led government has introduced the Code on Wages Bill in the Lok Sabha, amalgamating the Minimum Wages Act, the Payment of Wages Act, The Bonus Act and the Equal Remuneration Act.

This Wage Code Bill leaves fixation of minimum wages to the discretion of the government, the central government and the state governments. It provides for the constitution of a Minimum Wage Advisory Board. But the recommendations of the boards are not binding on the governments.

The Wage Code Bill totally ignores the unanimous recommendations of the ILC and the directions of the Supreme Court on the criteria for fixing the minimum wage.

It reiterates the atrocious provision of deducting eight days’ wages for one day strike, if the strike is declared ‘illegal’. If the draft Industrial Relations Code Bill, another atrocious draft amending labour laws, becomes an Act, then almost all strikes can be declared ‘illegal’.

The provisions on enforcement of minimum wages including regular payment of wages are highly diluted that all the other provisions will be rendered totally meaningless. Whatever teeth the erstwhile Payment of Wages Act, the Minimum Wages Act, the Equal Remuneration Act and the Payment of Bonus Act had, are all diluted to the extent that enforcement of law will become a casualty. Employers will be empowered to violate the law as per their will.

Job Creation; Job protection

Two out of three people in our country are below the age of 35. Over ten lakh more people in India need employment every month. That is, at least 1.2 crore new jobs have to be created every year. During the campaign to the Parliament elections in 2014, BJP and Modi promised creation of 2 crore new jobs every year.

Now it is more than three years since the BJP came to power at the centre with its own majority and Modi saab became Prime Minister. What is the situation today?

According to the government’s own data, only 2.31 lakh new jobs were created in eight labour intensive sectors during the nine months ending December 2016. In 2015, the number of new jobs created was 1.35 lakhs.

Job growth in the period of neo-liberal policies has always been slow; over the period it has become further slower. During 2001-2011, jobs grew at only 2% per year. Latest data shows that between 2011 and 2015, job growth has further dipped to just 1.25% per year.

Meanwhile, the already low rate of women’s employment has further plummeted under the present BJP led government of Prime Minister Modi. According to a recent Labour Bureau report women’s participation in work force came down to just 27% in 2015-16 from 31% in 2011-12 and 43% in 2004-05.

The government, particularly the Prime Minister and the finance minister never tire of making claims of the fast economic growth in the country. But, clearly, this is not being reflected in job creation. Neither has the claimed economic growth brought the promised ‘acche din’ for the common people.

Jobs are, not only, not being created; large numbers of jobs are also being lost. If the job losses due to the increasing closures of industrial units throughout the country are also taken into account, actually the number of jobs is coming down. Jobs are vanishing.

According to a new data based on a series of surveys conducted by the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE) between January 2016 and April 2017, around 15 lakhs jobs were lost across the country due to demonetisation. The data show that while India’s employed force grew from 401 million in April 2016 to 406.5 million in December 2016, it fell to 405 million in the four month survey period of January through April 2017.

Seven big IT companies including Wipro, Infosys, Cognizant, Tech Mahindra, TCS etc are reported to have planned to lay off 56000 engineers. Some reports estimate that around 6 lakh jobs in the IT sector would be lost in the next 3-4 years. According to McKinsey and Company, nearly half of the workers in the IT sector would become redundant in the next three years.

This is in addition to the large numbers of jobs being lost due to the closures of factories across the country due to which lakhs of those who are employed are becoming unemployed.

Agriculture, which employs largest number of people in our country, continues to be in crisis. The number of days of work in agriculture has drastically come down. Hundreds of thousands of people from rural areas are forced to migrate to towns and cities in search of jobs. The distress among people searching for work is evident in the huge increase in the number of people seeking work under the MGNREGA. But the BJP government is eager to dump MGNREGA. Despite the statutory entitlement of 100 days of work in a year, less than 50 days of work was provided in 2016. Wages are not being paid for months at a stretch for the work done owing to cut in allocations.

The BJP government is spending thousands of crores of public money to camouflage this alarming employment situation in the country. It is releasing huge advertisements of its ‘Skill India’, ‘Make in India’, ‘Start Up India’ etc to create illusions among the people. At the same time, it is also claiming that its labour law amendments and the huge concessions to industry worth around Rs 10 lakh crore every year, are meant to attract investment that would generate employment.

All the ‘policies’ of the Modi government meant to create jobs have failed dramatically. We were told that foreign investment under ‘Make in India’ will create jobs. In reality, foreign investment has come in mainly in the share market. It has no effect on jobs. The government says that if people are given skills, they will get jobs. But according to the data for the Prachan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojana until the first week of July 2017, out of a total 30.67 lakh candidates who have been trained, or were undergoing training across the country, only 2.9 lakh candidates - less than 10% - have received placement offers. Over Rs12,000 crores are to be spent in 4 years under this program, which does not yield any significant results. Now the Prime Minister preaches ‘Don’t seek jobs; try to provide jobs’. Isn’t this rubbing salt over injury for the crores of unemployed youth of our country?

The reality is that despite all the tall claims by the government, private sector is not coming forward to make any big investment. The investment made is not generating significant employment. A Karnataka state government survey reported that, on an average, Rs 7.4 lakh investment could generate one job in 2006-07; in 2014-15, this has increased by 60 times; an investment of Rs 4.5 crores was generating only one job. This is in general, the trend in employment generation today.

City wise, six out of the eight metros saw a decline of 18% to 29% in hiring activity in April 2017 compared to one year ago. IT sector was the worst hit, mainly due to automation, robotics etc and to some extent due to visa restrictions in the USA.

The reality is that for the private sector, profit is the driving force, not social service or generation of employment for our youth. Despite pocketing all the concessions, they want to increase their profits by spending less on wages. They want to further lower the share of wages through mechanisation and latest technology like automation, use of robots etc.

The BJP government’s decisions related to privatisation and strategic sale of the public sector including defence, railways, etc will further worsen the employment situation in the coming days.

For the BJP and its government, empty rhetoric is for the workers; benefits in deeds are for the corporates, domestic and foreign.

The trade unions have been demanding that the government adopt policies that would generate decent employment for the women and men of our country; that whatever concessions are being made to industry must be made conditional to employment protection and generation. Till now the government has totally ignored this demand.

Stop Disinvestment and Strategic Sale of Public Sector Units

Stop disinvestment and strategic sale of public sector undertakings – this is one of the major demands of the joint trade union movement.

Why does the government want to privatise and dismantle the public sector, in the first place?

Privatisation is one of the major components of neoliberal policies, to which both the Congress and the BJP are committed – privatisation of public enterprises, public resources and public services etc. It is a method of handing over public property, property belonging to the people, to private corporates, so that they can amass wealth at the cost of the nation.

Privatisation process in our country was initiated under the Congress regime in 1991, when the neoliberal policies were officially introduced. Attempts to privatise the public sector undertakings, hand over control and management of public resources to private players continued since then. However, they had to retreat in the face of strong opposition from the united working class movement and the people; when the Left parties, who consistently opposed privatisation, had a strong presence in the Parliament.

Now, with the BJP government coming to power at the centre with its own majority in 2014, this process has gained momentum.

Soon after coming to power this BJP government dismantled the Planning Commission and replaced it with the NITI (National Institution for Transforming India) Ayog. The NITI Ayog was entrusted with the task of identifying public sector undertakings for disinvestment and strategic sale. It has identified 74 PSUs including 26 for downright closure and 10 for strategic disinvestment. It is pushing for disinvestment of PSUs till strategic sale is concluded.

The government has decided to sell off several sick and loss making companies with huge assets. If it finds no buyer, these will be closed off. In fact, many of these units were deliberately made sick by successive governments. Even today, these units can be made profitable by infusing the necessary capital and ensuring proper functioning. The huge assets that they possess can be utilised for this purpose. But the government does not want to do that. It is keen to hand them along with their assets to the private players at throw away prices.

This BJP led government has also decided to privatise almost all profit making public sector companies, most of them in the strategic and core sectors of the economy. Central public sector units in various sectors including defence, steel, power, general insurance, drugs and pharmaceuticals, aviation, heavy engineering and construction etc are targeted for privatisation. In the last three years, the government has stripped most of the profit making PSUs of all their reserves and surpluses. This was done purposefully to lower their market value so that they can be sold at dirt cheap price to the private companies.

The government is not only selling the shares in public sector; it has also decided to allow foreign direct investment (FDI) in almost all the key sectors of our economy – in defence, railways, banking, insurance, pension funds, coal, petroleum, mining, power, telecom, civil aviation, satellites, construction, multi brand retail, pharmaceuticals etc. This will lead to the big foreign corporations dominating these sectors in our country. Ultimately our nation will lose control over these most strategic sectors of our economy. Our national sovereignty will be seriously affected.

The most outrageous are the attempts by this BJP led government, which claims to be the sole champion and custodian of ‘nationalism’, to privatise our defence sector and the railways. CITU has published a small booklet separately on the impact of defence sector privatisation on our national sovereignty. Another booklet on the anti people character of railway privatisation will be released soon. CITU has also published a pamphlet detailing the public sector units that are being privatised. We request all workers to go through them.

But what we want to emphasise here is that privatisation of public sector is not something that concerns the public sector workers alone. It is not merely an onslaught on public sector workers, their rights and their jobs.

Public sector has been instrumental for our country attaining self reliant economy; in creating the industrial base of the country after independence. It was the public sector enterprises which built the major infrastructure of the country like power, transport including railways, roads etc when the private sector did not have the capacity or was not ready to take the risk of investing huge amounts of capital in these sectors, which do not provide immediate profits. Thermal, hydro and nuclear power projects, transport and communication, production of steel, defence equipment, ship building, oil, coal etc were set up in the public sector. The Research and Development taken up by the PSUs had a huge contribution in our technological and industrial advance.

It has played an important role in developing balanced regional growth. The townships constructed in the areas where the PSUs were located, many in remote underdeveloped rural areas, not only provided housing and other facilities for the workers like schools, hospitals, dispensaries, community centres, shopping complexes etc but also led to overall development of the entire area. Thousands of people in the surrounding villages benefited indirectly by getting employment and income opportunities by providing different services to the people in these townships.

By implementing the reservations for SC/ ST sections, PSUs provided employment and opportunities for development of these sections. Despite limitations, they have contributed to social justice. It helped in industrialisation including to the growth of private sector in the surrounding areas.

It has become fashionable for the advocates of neoliberal reforms to portray public sector as ‘white elephants’ eating away the scarce government resources. But the reality is otherwise.

There are innumerable instances of tax evasion, manipulation of accounts etc by the private sector establishments including the big corporates, national and multinational. Government figures themselves inform that every year, the national exchequer is robbed of not less than Rs 5 lakh crore through such manipulations. In 2015-16 alone, direct tax evasion amounted to Rs 6.59 lakh crore. But the government is not ready to take any action against them.

In contrast, public sector not only scrupulously pays its taxes but also makes huge contribution to the government through dividends, special dividends etc. In 2014-15 the PSUs contributed more than Rs 2 lakh crore to the national economy by way of capital investment.

The public sector and their huge assets are the wealth of the nation. Strategic sale and privatisation mean handing over this wealth belonging to the people to private corporates, both domestic and foreign.

It is an attack on the basic fabric of our national economy. It is an attack on self reliance and the country’s manufacturing capability.

It is an attack on the entire people, an onslaught on SC/STs right to reservation in jobs. It is an attack on the entire society.

Hence struggle against privatisation cannot be considered the responsibility of public sector workers only and left to them alone. Entire trade union movement has to get involved fully in this struggle. Working class movement has to take the initiative in rallying the entire people in this struggle against privatisation.
Stop the Anti worker Amendment to the Labour Laws!

Why do employers evade labour laws? Why do they want labour laws to be changed? Simple! To increase their profits!

But why does the government permit evasion of labour laws? Any ordinary citizen violating the laws of the land is generally taken to task by the law enforcement authorities. But not so in the case of labour law violations! Strangely it is the workers, who are being punished, victimised and implicated in false cases for demanding implementation of labour laws while no employer anywhere in the country is ever punished for non implementation of any labour law.

Worse, the government is amending labour laws against the interests of the workers and to make them favourable to the employers. Why?

This is a serious matter that needs to be considered.

All the statutory benefits that the workers have today – eight hours working day, minimum wages, equal remuneration, maternity benefit, bonus, social security benefits including provident fund and ESI, the right to form trade unions etc - have been achieved through hard struggles and huge sacrifices by the working class. They were not granted out of benevolence or charity by either the employers or any government.

The capitalist class have been putting pressure on the governments to weaken the labour laws. The successive governments at the centre, succumbing to the pressure of the capitalists, have been trying to weaken these laws through a thousand tricks and loopholes. The previous Congress government had forced changes in laws to make registration of trade unions more difficult to prevent workers from organising. But workers held massive struggles including country wide strikes and many of these attempts could be defeated.

But the present BJP government, which has come to power on its own majority, is surely intoxicated with power. It thinks it can do anything totally ignoring the protests of the workers. It has decided to go ahead and do what many governments in the past were not able to do. It is determined to bring about wholesale changes in labour laws that will make them toothless and irrelevant. It wants to impose slave like conditions on the workers facilitating increased exploitation by domestic and foreign capitalists.

The government has decided to merge the 44 central labour laws into 4 labour codes. The Minimum Wages Act, the Payment of Wages Act, the Bonus Act and the Equal Remuneration Act are merged into the Labour Code on Wages. The Industrial Disputes Act, the Trade Unions Act and the Industrial Employment (Standing Orders) Act have been merged into the Code on Industrial Relations. 15 labour laws related to social security of workers are merged into the Code on Social Security. The beneficial and rights components of all these Acts are thoroughly diluted in the Code Bill. In many cases they are totally eliminated to benefit the employers’ class.

The Code on Wages Bill has already been introduced in the Lok Sabha. The Code on Industrial Relations Bill is ready for introduction in the Parliament. The Draft Code on Social Security has been placed in public domain.

What will be their implications on workers? In one word, they will be disastrous. They seek to take away the hard won rights of the workers.

CITU has published critiques of these amendments. Briefly, they are:

• The Code on Wages is totally silent on the formula for fixation of minimum wages as unanimously recommended by the 15th Indian Labour Conference along with the Supreme Court judgment in the Raptakos and Brett case, which was repeatedly reiterated in the 44th and 46th ILCs. The definition of ‘workers’ and ‘employees’ is made in such a way to enable the employers to deprive several sections of workers and employees like the sales representatives, working journalists etc from many provisions of the Code Bill. The Bill does not give the option to the workers on the method of payment of their wages, in cash or by other methods. Enforcement provisions including the system of inspection have been totally diluted in favour of the employers. There is no provision for representatives of workers to be included in the Wage Boards

• The Code on Industrial Relations is highly detrimental to the interests of the workers; it is in fact intended to impose slave like conditions on workers. Employers in establishments employing up to 300 workers can retrench them at their will, they need not take formal permission from the government; they can ‘hire and fire’ according to their needs. The Code makes forming trade unions by workers next to impossible; and going on struggles and strikes on their genuine demands almost impossible. In one word, it seeks to impose slave like conditions on the workers. Even people supporting workers’ struggles will be punishable with huge fines and imprisonment. At the same time employers are let off with light punishments for any violations on their part

• The government’s claim of ‘universal social security protection’ through the Code on Social Security is highly deceptive. The Code proposes not a single specific social security measure for the workers. What it specifies is that all the funds with EPFO, ESI, Building and Other Construction Workers Welfare Cess etc will be merged and brought under the control of a national advisory board to be set up under the chairmanship of the Prime Minister. Obviously this huge fund will be made available to the share market.

It is not only strange but also ridiculous that the BMS has acclaimed the Code on Social Security as a ‘historic and revolutionary piece of legislation’. Can any trade union really committed to the interests of workers ever praise such a retrograde and harmful proposal like this?

Now, why is the government doing this? Obviously, the government is more interested in helping the big corporates, both domestic and foreign, by improving its ‘ease of doing business’ index. The corporates, the employers’ class allege that the labour laws in India are ‘restrictive’, and demand that they should be given the right to ‘hire and fire’ workers according to their will, close or open factories according to their needs etc. They demand union free workplaces so that they can freely exploit workers without organised resistance, increase their profits and amass their wealth.

The reality is that in our country over 90% of the workers are not covered by labour laws at all. Even in the organised sector, 50% of workforce is now made of contract workers in public sector units while their share is 70% in private units. They are considered to be beyond the purview of labour laws. Overwhelming majority of the small proportion of workers who are legally covered by labour laws do not benefit because of poor or non implementation. The BJP government has already further diluted and weakened their implementation through computerised random inspections under its ‘Shrameva Jayate’ programme. But the employers are not satisfied. They want workers to be further subjugated. Their dil mange more!

The BJP government at the centre feels obliged to satisfy them. It has amended the Apprentices Act. The definition of ‘workers’ has been changed in this amended Apprentices Act to include contract, casual and daily rated workers. Now the employers can deploy 30% of the total of such ‘workers’ as apprentices; pay them nominal amounts and increase their profits.

This BJP government has also passed the Labour Law (Amendments) Act. Any establishment employing 19-40 workers will be treated as small establishment. On the pretext of simplifying labour laws, these are exempted from filing returns and maintaining registers related to 16 major labour laws including Factories Act, Payment of Wages Act, Minimum Wages Act, Weekly Holidays Act, Contract Labour (R&A) Act, Building and Other Construction Workers Act, Equal Remuneration Act, Payment of Bonus Act, Plantation Labour Act etc. With today’s technology most of the establishments having large capital investment and huge profits employ less than 40 workers. It is estimated that over 72% factories in this country will now find it further easier to evade all these 16 labour laws.

The government of India has directed all the state governments to amend the labour laws in their states in the pattern of the BJP led Rajasthan state government. Several other state governments including Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Haryana, etc have followed in the footsteps of Rajasthan government and happily implemented the recommendations of the government of India. Several other state governments including in Himachal Pradesh, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, etc. have announced their intentions to do the same.

It is clear that it is payback time for the BJP - to pay back those corporations who have helped the ruling party with big money during elections and continue to support it including through the media they own.

All the arguments about amendments to labour laws attracting investments and creating jobs are just humbug. International Labour Organisation (ILO) has reported about studies that have clearly established that it is not so.

Such predatory attacks on the basic rights of workers that the trade unions cannot be allowed. They must be resisted tooth and nail and defeated at any cost to avoid being pushed back into slave like conditions.
Universal social security for all workers

The trade unions are demanding universal social security for all workers.

Today a very small section of workers only are covered by social security benefits like provident fund, ESI, medical benefits, maternity benefit, accident compensation, gratuity, pension etc. Despite contributing to over 60% of the country’s GDP, the unorganised sector workers do not get any social security benefits.

According to an estimate by the International Labour Organisation (ILO), the expenditure for providing universal social security in India, covering health, unemployment, old age, disability and child care benefits, would be approximately 3.7% of the country’s GDP estimate for 2010. This is not a very big amount compared to the benefits that will be available for the crores of workers who produce the wealth of this country. Even while this would come down over years the country would have a much more healthy population; people can lead a life of dignity; all the children, the old and the sick would be well cared for.

But apparently the government is not interested in this. It is just dragging its feet on such a basic issue. At the same time the BJP government is trying to deceive the people through its high decibel advertisements which proclaim that its Code on Social Security is meant to cover all including rickshaw pullers and domestic workers.

But cover with what? What are the benefits that the people will get? There is no answer. No specific social security scheme is proposed.

Who will be covered exactly? Establishments will have to be registered for the workers to be covered. The threshold number of workers will be decided by the government. What will be the threshold level? This BJP government has raised the threshold level of employment under the Factories Act to 40. That means that more than 72% of factory workers who were being covered by the Factories Act will now be thrown out. Will the factories with less than 40 workers be eligible for registration under the Code on Social Security? Will the workers of these establishments be eligible for whatever benefits are provided under this Code? No answer.

What is clear is that the government is not contributing a single paisa for social security for the workers. (Except of course spending some thousands of crores of rupees on advertisements, to secure its own future and to benefit the media) Unorganised workers will have to contribute at the rate of 12.5% of their wages for the social security benefits. If the employers are not identifiable, the workers are categorised as self employed and they have to contribute 20% of their earnings.

15 existing social security legislations exist at present. These are –

• Employees State Insurance Act
• Employees Provident Fund and Miscellaneous Provisions Act, the
• Employees Compensation Act
• Maternity Benefits Act
• Payment of Gratuity Act
• Unorganised Workers Social Security Act
• Building and Other Construction Workers Welfare Cess Act
• Beedi Workers Welfare Cess Act
• Beedi Workers Welfare Fund Act
• Iron Ore Mines, Manganese Ore Mines and Chrome Ore Mines Labour Welfare Cess Act
• Iron Ore Mines, Manganese Ore Mines and Chrome Ore Mines Welfare Fund Act
• Mica Mines Labour Welfare Cess Act, the
• Limestone and Dolomite Mines Labour Welfare Fund Act
• Cine Workers Welfare Cess Act and
• Cine Workers Welfare Fund Act, are amalgamated into this Code on Social Security.

The entire fund with the existing central funds like the EPF, ESI, Building and Other Construction Workers’ Welfare Fund etc, amounting to around Rs 12 lakh crore along with the huge amount that will be collected from the unorganised workers and self employed, will be placed at the disposal of the National Council of Social Security, to be chaired by the Prime Minister. The government is greedily looking at these huge funds of the workers, to use them in the stock market, that is, for gambling. It wants to make workers’ money available for speculation to satisfy the finance capital lobby.

Is this social protection or blatant deception?

Remember, the erstwhile UPA government had enacted the Unorganised Workers’ Social Security Act in 2009. No new social security benefit had been formulated under that Act; neither during the tenure of the UPA government nor under the present BJP led Modi government. No funds were allotted for the social security schemes under this Act; either by the then UPA government or the present BJP government. Only some already existing social security schemes, most of them meant for BPL people were made applicable to the unorganised workers. The present government made even the National Social Security Board constituted under the Act totally non functional. Some of the old schemes were discontinued and launched with new names.

Cutting down social welfare expenditure and pampering the big corporates, big business and finance capital – is the hallmark of neoliberal policies.

CITU and other central trade unions (except the BMS, which called the Code on Social Security ‘historic and revolutionary piece of legislation!) are determined to expose this fraud on the workers. We want universal social security for ALL and we are determined to fight for it.

No contractorisation of work of permanent/perennial nature!
Same wages and benefits for Same Work

Under the neoliberal regime, the number of contract workers has been increasing not only in the private sector but also in the public sector and in the central and state government departments. This has reached alarming proportions now.

Today, in most of the establishments in the private sector including in the Multi National Corporations (MNCs), the number of workers with the so called ‘non formal employment relations’ – contract workers, casual workers, temporary, part time workers, apprentices, trainees, fixed term employees etc – far outnumbers the permanent workers. The government is also adopting the same approach by handing over jobs of permanent and perennial nature to contract workers or outsourced workers. Majority of the small number of around 15.6% salaried employees today are on contract. It is found that on an average, 50% of the total workforce in the public sector units and over 70% in the private sector are contract workers.

Reducing the number of permanent workers and getting the same job done by contract workers and other such workers under the so called ‘precarious employment relations’ is one of the strategies adopted by the employers to increase their profits. In most of the establishments, the contract workers are paid only a fraction of the wages paid to the permanent workers even when they do the same job. For example, Hyundai Motors India Ltd in Chennai employs 2300 permanent workers and 8000 workers under ‘non formal’ employment relations including apprentices, apprentice trainees, contract workers etc who are all directly involved in the production process. While the permanent workers are paid a monthly wage of around Rs 35000, the contract workers, apprentices etc are paid between Rs 6000 and Rs 12000 a month.

These vast sections of contract workers, barring rare exceptions, are deprived of almost all the statutory benefits including minimum wages, social security benefits etc. Their employment is always under threat by the respective contractor and the principal employer. The situation continues to be the same despite the provisions in the Contract Labour (R&A) Act and the Supreme Court judgment that same wages and benefits should be paid to workers doing the same work. Contractorisation also denies the statutory right to reservation of the SC/ST workers. This is nothing but a creeping form of privatisation.

This has given rise to a grave situation in most of the workplaces where, under the same roof two sets of workers doing the same job but with vastly different conditions of employment are employed. Existence of such a situation for a long period poses a threat to the service conditions of the regular workers also. The wages and working conditions of permanent workers also come under attack. This is already happening in many establishments in the private sector. Today many employers place their counter demands and insist that they should be discussed first, whenever the unions give their charter of demands. Employers’ demands include reduction of wages, other benefits, increase in workload on the pretext of productivity targets etc.

Because of such practices, despite increase in profits for the employers, the average level of wages has been going down.

The CITU has long been struggling against such exploitation of the workers through contractorisation. It has directed all its unions of permanent workers to take initiative to organise the contract workers employed in their establishments; to include the demands of contract workers in their charter of demands. This is being done by several unions of permanent employees affiliated to CITU in various sectors. In several establishments contract workers are getting organised in trade unions braving severe repression and retrenchment. There are instances of contract workers’ unions fighting on their demands including going on strike and achieving successes. Thousands have succeeded in raising their wages and in getting regularised. However compared to the total and increasing numbers of contract workers, much more efforts are required to organise them.

The 43rd Indian Labour Conference held in November 2010 recommended appropriate amendment to the Contract Labour (Regulation & Abolition) Act 1970 to ensure same wages and benefits to the contract workers for doing the same and similar nature of jobs as the regular workers. But till now the government has not taken concrete measures to implement it. This clearly indicates the unflinching dedication of the government to the employers’ interests.

The present BJP led government has gone several steps ahead in amending the labour laws in favour of the employers. It has amended labour laws exempting the implementation of Contract Labour (R&A) Act and promoting employment of workers under such precarious working conditions.

We demand that there should be no contractorisation of permanent and perennial nature of work. We demand that contract workers doing the same or similar job should be paid the same wages and other benefits.

As we have seen, all our major issues are related to the policies of the government. The erstwhile Congress led UPA government has implemented the same neoliberal policies. In fact it was the Congress government that had initiated the neoliberal policies officially in our country. The former BJP led NDA government of Atal Behari Vajpayee too implemented the same policies and even tried to hasten them. The present BJP led NDA government of Narendra Modi is even more determined to implement them with bullet speed.

This is a reflection of the desperation of the big corporations, of the ruling classes to come out of the global crisis, to protect their profits and increase them, by increasing exploitation of the workers and the toiling people. Neoliberalism is the latest phase of capitalism. Crises are inevitable in the capitalist system. All the latest data show that the economy of our country is facing serious difficulties. It has not only slowed down but is said to be slipping into recession. The workers and other toiling people may be subjected to even more attacks on their living and working conditions in the coming days.

This is bound to increase discontent and anger among the people. The ruling classes are promoting communal and divisive forces to divide the people, divert their attention from real issues, disrupt unity and weaken united struggles so that neoliberal policies that benefit the big corporations are continued. The corporate media, which once criticised Modi for the massacre of thousands of Muslims in Gujarat when he was chief minister of the state, are now projecting him as the messiah of the people. This is because they believe that Modi and his BJP led by the communal fascistic RSS can best promote their interests today, given their commitment to neoliberal policies and their readiness to use authoritarian and dictatorial methods to suppress opposition.
The working class and the toiling people have to be vigilant against such machinations of the ruling classes and the dangerous game plan of the communal and divisive forces working in tandem. Their heinous designs to disrupt unity must be thwarted.

The working class cannot neglect any more the need to correctly understand the reasons for their problems. It has, not only to understand, but also take the lead in fighting against the policies that are responsible for their miseries. It has to unite all its forces irrespective of caste, religion, region, gender etc. It has to identify its friends among other sections of the people and build a wide unity. It is only such unity and united struggles that can reverse and decisively defeat the anti worker anti people anti national policies of this government.

Let us make the 9-11 November 2017 ‘mahapadav’ a milestone in our struggles against neoliberalism; a milestone in the history of the joint trade union movement of the country; and a milestone in our struggle to free ourselves from all exploitation.

Hemalata
September 2017

Read 537 times