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Saturday, 03 September 2016 09:37

CITU DENOUNCES INVOKING ESMA ON NURSES’ STRIKE

3rd September 2016


GOVT MUST SORT OUT THE ISSUES THROUGH NEGOTIATION WITH THE FEDERATION IMMEDIATELY

 

The Centre of Indian Trade Unions expresses serious concern over continuance of countrywide strike by Govt Nurses under the leadership of of All India Govt Nurses’ Federation since 2ND September 2016 with the Govt of India indulging in complete inaction in sorting out the long pending demands of the Nurses of Central Govt Hospitals. As many as 20000 nurses of Govt Hospitals including those run by MCD have joined the strike. The demands are related to pay and allowances of the Nurses for which the Federation have been pursuing since long and they have been given concrete assurances by the Govt based on which the strike was deferred at least twice. But the assurances have not been implemented.

The CITU is dismayed over the inaction of the Govt on the vital demands of the Nurses, serving in the most sensitive sector thereby creating a situation of stalemate. CITU also denounces invoking of ESMA against the striking Nurses instead of taking meaningful initiative for settling the issues with their Federation through negotiation.

The CITU demands upon the Govt to withdraw ESMA on the striking Nurses and initiate dialogue with the Federation for sorting out their long pending issues amicably and ending the stalemate.

Issued by
( TAPAN SEN )
General Secretary

The country wide general strike on 2nd September this year was even bigger and more widespread than that held on the same day last year, as initial reports from all over the country suggest. The country wide general strike this year too was held on the same 12 point charter of demands. The central trade unions claimed a participation of 15 crore workers in the strike last year. The impact of the strike this year was so huge that even before the trade unions made any claims, the electronic media reported that 18 crore workers participated in the strike.

This gives big rebuff to the claims made by the government that it was working for the benefit of the workers and for providing them social security benefits. It is also significant that the BMS, which withdrew from the strike in the last minute in 2015, did not join the strike call this year at all. Besides, the BJP led government used everything within its capacity to create confusion among the workers and sabotage the strike. The BMS became a willing ally of the government in these efforts, declaring that it was ‘withdrawing’ from a strike that it has never called, but also claiming ‘historic victory’ for the workers. All these were nothing but manoeuvres by the BJP and the BMS, both members of the same parivar headed by the RSS to deceive the workers in their efforts to serve their corporate masters. The corporate media, particularly the electronic media, as usual, aired these false claims and added their might to the misinformation campaign.

But the working class of the country refused to be deceived. As the reports show, despite the call of the BMS leadership to organise ‘victory rallies and meetings’, BMS members were not willing to oppose the strike. In fact, in several places they joined the strike. Workers who were not organised into any unions, who joined the strike last year, as in Pune industrial area, joined the strike this time too. In several places the strike spread to newer areas encompassing newer sections of workers. In many states, not only the states that are traditional strongholds of trade unions, but in many others, the strike turned into a bandh. This was mainly due to the massive participation of the road transport workers as a result of which life in these states came to a standstill. In many districts of Assam, Bihar, Haryana, Jharkhand, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, Punjab wore a bandh like look. Despite the attempts by the TMC government in West Bengal to suppress the strike by issuing warnings and threats to the workers, state transport buses in the state plied empty and a bandh like situation prevailed in almost all the districts. In Kerala and Tripura, as always, strike turned into a bandh.

The anger of the workers against the policies of the government was visible in many ways. Around 70000 anganwadi employees and ASHAs, most of them who were not members of any union joined the strike in Gujarat. Thousands of them participated in the demonstrations held at the district headquarters in many districts. All the workers in the minor ports of Bhavnagar in Gujarat, Gangavaram and Kakinada in Andhra Pradesh joined the strike. These workers are not members of any of the central trade unions that called the strike. Similarly in many industrial clusters across the country, thousands of workers, who are not members of any union, joined the strike.

While there were a few areas like the port sector where the strike was not as good as the last time, and a few districts where the strike in the road transport sector was not as effective as last year, overall the strike was observed in many more industrial clusters and sectors and many newer sections of workers joined it.

It was not only the misinformation and misleading campaign of the government with its huge advertisements in the media aided and abetted by the BMS that the workers confronted. In several states they were subjected to victimisation, police repression and physical attacks. In Haryana 22 leaders of road transport workers’ union were arrested and the striking workers were lathi charged; police went to the residential areas where contract workers lived and coerced them to join duties. Several coal workers in Jharkhand were suspended for joining the strike. The police conducted a flag march to intimidate workers and also lathi charged workers standing peacefully near a theatre in Noida. In West Bengal CITU leader and former MP Suraj Pathak and many CITU leaders were arrested. TMC goons attacked the workers and their supporters, including women, participating in the rallies. Around 5000 workers were arrested in different parts of Assam.

The extent of the strike and the support it received could be gauged from the reports that were available till the evening of 2nd September though comprehensive reports from all the states and sectors are yet to come. In several states local state level unions joined the strike. In Telangana, the TRS affiliated union joined the strike; the TNTUC belonging to the ruling TDP in Andhra Pradesh supported the strike in Telangana. Even in Vijayawada in Andhra Pradesh, though TNTUC opposed the strike, workers belonging to it joined the strike. In Odisha the chief minister himself expressed his support to the strike when the trade union leaders met him. The Left parties openly supported the strike. Even while the BMS was not part of the strike and BMS leadership directed its members to observe ‘victory rallies’, local units of the BMS were not in a position to oppose the strike; in several states BMS members joined the strike.

Overwhelming majority of bank and insurance employees all over the country joined the strike. State government employees in most of the states joined the strike. Particularly noteworthy is the participation of state government employees in the north eastern states including Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Mizoram, Nagaland, Meghalaya etc who participated in the strike for the first time. Participation of central government employees – of the income tax employees, postal employees in particular was massive. Defence employees in several defence production units joined the strike. BSNL employees all over the country joined the strike. The strike was near total in the coal sector. Overwhelming majority of contract workers in the public sector participated in the strike. Strike among medical and sales representatives was total in almost all the states.

Scheme workers including anganwadi employees, ASHAs, midday meal workers participated in the strike all over the country. Teaching and non teaching staff of National Child Labour Project joined the strike in Bihar, Maharashtra etc. Traditional sector workers like the plantation workers, cashew, coir, and fisheries workers participated in the strike in their lakhs. Unorganised workers in beedi, construction, head load workers, auto and rickshaw drivers, street vendors, domestic workers in several states joined the strike and also participated in the demonstrations, rasta roko and rail roko. Municipal and conservancy workers, panchayat workers, village chowkidars etc also joined the strike.

In Andhra Pradesh, strike was total in Vizag steel and DCI; around 70% of workers of permanent workers in the Vizag Shipyard participated in the strike. The TTD in the holy town of Tirupati was totally paralysed. Autos all over the state went on strike. Almost all the industrial clusters including the Renigunta industrial area were closed down. In several major cities truck owners associations participated in the strike. This along with the strike of the head load workers throughout the state brought all commercial transactions in the state to a standstill.

In Assam strike took the form of complete bandh in almost all districts seriously affecting public and private transport. No oil refinery in the state functioned. ONGC remained paralysed. More than 15 lakhs tea garden workers joined the strike. All public and private educational institutions remained closed. Railway transport was disrupted due to the rail roko by the unorganised workers, peasants, agricultural workers etc.

In Bihar too the strike was turned into bandh in many districts. Road transport including bus and tempo services was off the road. Workers in several industrial clusters went on strike.

Workers in almost all the major industrial areas in NCR Delh joined the strike. Massive joint demonstrations were held in several centres. The central demonstration was addressed by the national trade union leaders.

In Gujarat, an estimated 4 lakhs workers in 22 districts joined the strike and organised demonstrations in many districts.

Strike was highly successful in Haryana including in the Gurgaon, Manesar industrial areas. Workers in the Manesar plant of Maruti Suzuki, Honda, Hero Honda and other industrial units joined the strike and held demonstrations.

Demonstrations were held in Jammu region in support of the strike while Kashmir region continues to be under curfew. Thousands of workers from different sectors participated in the demonstrations

In Jharkhand strike was observed in industrial areas including in Jamshedpur that never participated in any strike till now. It was reported to be more massive than the strike in 2015.

An estimated 50 lakhs workers participated in the strike in Karnataka. Strike was total in the road transport sector and in all the major industries in Bengaluru and Mysore. 19 lakhs workers in the industrial clusters of Bengaluru joined the strike. Strike was total in both the units of Mico, L&T, Chenna metals, Toyota, ITC, Vikrant Tyres etc. In BEL in Bengaluru, the union affiliated to INTUC did not join the strike; despite this 80% of workers, 800 out of the total 1073 workers, more than the membership of the CITU affiliated union, joined the strike

The strike in transport sector in several cities and towns in Madhya Pradesh was total. Hamalis of agricultural mandis also participated affecting commercial transactions.

Strike was total in many private industrial areas in Maharashtra including the Pune, Aurangabad, Nagpur, Nasik, Mumbai, Solapur etc. Major industries like Ceat Ltd, Thysun Crupp, Sansonite India, Crompton Grieves, beer manufacturing units, pharma industries, liquor and textile industries were closed. Strike was total among beedi and power loom workers in Solapur.

Strike created a bandh like situation in Odisha. It was total among iron ore, manganese and coal mines workers and near total among the contract workers. Road transport including autos was totally paralysed.

Strike evoked massive response in Punjab with workers. Road transport was paralysed and industrial clusters remaining closed. Unorganised workers participated in the demonstrations in thousands.

The garment industry in Tiruppur in Tamil Nadu witnessed total strike. Strike was also effective in the Coimbatore industrial area. It was total in Ashok Leyland, Ennore Foundries, Simpson Group of companies and all three factories of TI Group in Chennai. Workers in BHEL Trichy and Ranipet, ordinance factory in Nilgiris, defence production units in Avadi and Aravangadu were totally in strike. In Aravangadu, BMS members also joined the strike. Contract workers in Manali industrial belt MFL, ATC Tyres in Tirunelveli and TCL Lancer, in L&T, in Tyre machinery making Honey Well company went on strike.

There was bandh like situation in the state due to the total participation of road transport workers in the strike in Telangana. There was total strike in most of the public sector undertakings in the state. Strike was also total in most of the industrial clusters in and around Hyderabad. On the whole the strike was reported to be even more successful than last year

Strike was total in Udhampur industrial area of Uttarakhand and partial in that in Haridwar. It was also total in public road transport in the state but partial in private road transport.

In West Bengal, bandh like situation prevailed in many districts despite the threats and intimidation of the TMC government and its goons. Government ran buses without passengers in the morning but was compelled to withdraw later. Jute mills were closed. Commercial activities were nominal. Educational institutions in several districts were closed. Most of the tea gardens remained closed.

This strike, the seventeenth joint country wide general strike after the advent of neoliberal policies in the country, was preceded by joint campaign that was better organised and taken up to the block and in some states lower level to reach the workers. In addition, CITU prepared campaign material to make the workers aware of the issues and their relationship to the government policies. Booklets exposing government claims were also published which were translated into local languages. During the strike the lower level committees were regularly up dated with information exposing government claims. This has helped in preventing the workers from succumbing to the confusion sought to be created by the government and the BMS.

This country wide general strike will definitely be a mile stone in the working class struggles of the country.

Hemalata

2nd September 2016


The Centre of Indian Trade Unions salutes the working class of India for the historic strike today rebuffing all attempts by the BJP led NDA government to confuse the workers through different channels.

This was the biggest ever strike by the working class of the country with some media channels reporting that 18 crores workers joined the strike with its sweep much beyond the workers organised by the sponsoring trade unions. Employees and workers from all sectors of the country’s economy – organised and unorganised, public sector and private sector, central and state government departments, and the scheme workers participated in this strike. In all the strategic sectors of the economy, viz., coal and non-coal mines, electricity, Engineering, petroleum, defence production, telecom and the financial sector like banks and insurance etc, the workers and employees took part in the strike in a big way ignoring threats of the respective ministries, managements and also by many state governments. State level trade union centres also joined the strike in several states including Telangana, Tamil Nadu, Odisha etc. It is significant that this general strike called by all the central trade unions except the BMS and almost all independent federations of workers and employees received unprecedented support from the common people. Peasants, agricultural workers, youth, students and women joined in large numbers in the rasta roko, rail roko and the demonstrations held across the country, in support of the demands raised by the trade unions.

Workers actively participated in the strike despite the use of state repression including the use of police force in some states like West Bengal, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Assam etc. The Trinamool government in West Bengal used the brutal force of its police as well as its goons to physically attack the workers on strike. There were clashes in several districts as workers resisted the use of force. Section 144 was imposed in several industrial areas as in Gurgaon, Faridabad in Haryana, Nodia etc. 12 workers of Maruti Suzuki and 22 transport union leaders were arrested in Gurgaon; police went to workers’ residential areas in Gurgaon to coerce contract workers who were on strike, to join work. The West Bengal transport minister directed the MD of Water Transport to suspend the striking employees. TMC goons attacked processions of striking workers, youth, women and even journalists in Burdwan and many other places.

Road transport came to a standstill in several states including Haryana, Punjab, Telangana, Karnataka, Assam, Odisha, Kerala, Tripura etc. Autos too were off the streets in several states like Andhra Pradesh, Odisha, Karnataka etc. Though the trade unions did not call for a bandh, a bandh like situation prevailed in many states in the country including Assam, Bihar Haryana, Odisha, Kerala, Tripura, Telangana, many districts of Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh and others. Large industrial clusters and manufacturing hubs in most of the states including Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Delhi -NCR, Haryana, Odisha, Punjab, Tamil Nadu, Telangana, Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka, etc came to a grinding halt due to the strike. Lakhs of workers in the industrial areas of Pune, Aurangabad, Nagpur, Nasik, Mumbai and Solapur in Maharashtra joined the strike enmasse. The strike was total in Kerala and Tripura.

The unprecedented response to the strike, despite the misinformation campaign unleashed by the BJP government aided by BMS, reflects the anger and resentment of the workers against the attacks on their working and living conditions by the neoliberal agenda of the BJP led government.

This strike is yet another warning by the working class of India that it is determined to continue its struggle to protect not only the rights of the workers but also the self reliance and sovereignty of the country.

The CITU extends its gratitude to the massive support and solidarity extended to the strike by various sections of the people including kisans, agricultural workers, adivasis etc.

CITU demands the government to take immediate steps to meet the demands raised unanimously by the entire trade union movement in the country. It calls upon the working class to further strengthen the unity at the grass root level and be prepared for more intense struggles if the government chooses to continue with its policies.

1st September 2016

 

The Union Labour Minister, Shri Bandaru Dattatreya had sent a release to Media and press on 31st August 2016 at 9 pm trumpeting on “NDA Govt’s commitment to fair earnings and social security for the workers.”

CITU considers this statement a deliberate “misinformation campaign” to create confusion and to sabotage the countrywide general strike on 2nd September 2016, which all sections of workers and employees have already prepared to join.

The Labour Minister claimed to have announced a 42% rise in minimum wage for the workers in central sphere. What does that mean for the workers and the unions who have demanded fixation of statutory minimum wage for all workers in the country at not less than Rs 18000/- per month? This means that minimum wage for workers in the “C” category areas should be at least Rs 18000, making it proportionally higher in “B” and “A” category areas, i.e., Rs 22320 and 26560 respectively. The government’s offer of Rs 9100/-, Rs 11362/- and Rs 13598/- respectively for the workers of central sphere in “C”, “B” and “A” category areas respectively is not even half of what all the central trade unions including BMS unitedly demanded and have been pursuing since last five years; they vociferously argued for the same on the latest occasion in the meeting of the Minimum Wage Advisory Board held on 29th August 2016. How could a trade union worth its name accept such a mockery on their genuine demand formulated on the basis of a formula accepted by the central govt also? BMS may consider this mockery of offer a “historic achievement” owing to their compulsion, but others cannot.

And who is going to be benefited by this offer. This offer is for the workers in the central sphere which as per Minister’s own estimate is 70 lakh. This will not benefit even one per cent of the non-agricultural workforce in the country, if at all it is implemented. For 99% plus workers of the country this offer means nothing at all. Does the minister have any answer for them?

The trade unions had been all along demanding for a statutory binding arrangement for Minimum Wage applicable throughout the country. Making noise over some marginal increase, that too for the extremely minority section of workers in the central sphere is aimed at deceiving the overwhelming majority of the workforce.

Hon’ble Minister announced that the Govt will pay the employers contribution in provident fund and pension for three years. Why should the national exchequer pay for employers’ statutory liability toward PF and pension? But this is a government that has been allowing the corporate to pilfer national exchequer by not paying due taxes (Rs 5 lakh crore), indulging them not to pay back loans taken from banks (Rs 8.5 lakh crore); they are also paying the employer the cost of training the apprentices partially, and now the Govt has decided to shoulder employers’ statutory liability toward PF and pension for three years not from their own pocket but from the national exchequer. What else can be called loot on national asset? Claiming these anti national measures as ‘commitment to national development’ is nothing but hypocrisy.

CITU asserts that this kind of gimmickry will not deter the workers of the country from their struggle. THE STRIKE IS ON


(TAPAN SEN )
General Secretary

 

30th August 2016
The Group of Ministers headed by the Union Finance Minister Shri Arun Jaitley, and comprising Labour Minister, Petroleum Minister and Power Minister held a Press Conference today on 30th August 2016 to tell the nation that the Govt had accepted major demands of the trade unions and hence they should not go in for strike on 2nd September 2016. CITU considers the statement of the Govt nothing but a mockery meted out to workers.

The Statement of the Finance Minister that the Govt has accepted the recommendation of the Minimum Wage Advisory Committee is totally untrue. The Minimum Wage Advisory Committee met on 30th August 2016 at 3 pm and ended inconclusive while all the workers’ representatives reiterated their demand of Rs 18000/-. Such mis-statement by Govt is a deliberate ploy to mislead and confuse the workers before the strike.

Govt’s offer of a floor level minimum wage of Rs 350/- per day, i.e., Rs 9100/- per month (26 days) is cruel joke by the Govt making a posture of accepting the demands of workers. Trade unions reject such a mockery in the name of offer with the contempt it deserves.

Releasing previous year’s bonus for the central govt employees is not something about Govt’s magnanimity. Govt did so to implement the enhanced ceiling as per the Payment of Bonus Act for them, which they should have done much earlier. Now they have released in order to deceptively pose that the Govt has been considering so many things. So far as the court cases on implementation of Payment of Bonus Act is concerned, it is the responsibility of the central govt to defend and implement the Act passed by Parliament, for which they cannot claim any special credit. But this NDA Govt should better note that it is the BJP Govt in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan etc have withheld implementation of the Bonus Act for the year 2014-15 on their own citing the High Court Orders in Kerala and Karnataka which were not binding on them. That makes the real intention clear.

Govt also stated that they will issue advisory to state governments to ensure registration of trade unions within 45 days. Advisory is not having binding impact. What is required is to make statutory arrangement. But in their proposals on labour reforms, Govt has already put so many conditions that would make registering trade union virtually impossible.

On being asked in the press conference about the right to minimum wages for the central Govt Scheme workers like Anganwadi, Mid-day-meal, ASHA etc , The Finance Minister brushed the questioner aside saying that scheme workers are all volunteers and not workers. He must recall that the 46th Indian Labour Conference held during NDA regime has unanimously reiterated the recommendation of the previous ILC that the Scheme workers should be recognized as workers with right to minimum wages and attendant benefits.

The Minister further stated that the scheme workers will be covered by the Social Security benefits for which a committee will be constituted. Almost same statement was uttered by him one year before on 26-27 August 2015, prior to previous general strike. Nothing has been done yet. Rather ESIC has offered extremely partial ESI benefit to Anganwadi and mid-day-meal workers on payment of Rs 250/- per month which amounts to 8.33% of the paltry earning of the anganwadi workers, 16% of the anganwadi helpers and 25% of the mid-day-meal workers; whereas the workers covered by ESIC Act are to contribute 1.75% of their wage for full ESI benefit. Such proposal is dubiously designed to deny them the social security benefit and this deceptive game is going on.

In reality, Govt’s announcement in the press conference on the charter of demands of the workers is nothing but a hoax and must be rejected outright. This is game to confuse and mislead people just on the eve of strike. Such deceptive and dubious ploy of the Govt must be combated through making the 2nd September 2016 a massive success.

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30th August 2016
The Group of Ministers headed by the Union Finance Minister Shri Arun Jaitley, and comprising Labour Minister, Petroleum Minister and Power Minister held a Press Conference today on 30th August 2016 to tell the nation that the Govt had accepted major demands of the trade unions and hence they should not go in for strike on 2nd September 2016. CITU considers the statement of the Govt nothing but a mockery meted out to workers.

The Statement of the Finance Minister that the Govt has accepted the recommendation of the Minimum Wage Advisory Committee is totally untrue. The Minimum Wage Advisory Committee met on 30th August 2016 at 3 pm and ended inconclusive while all the workers’ representatives reiterated their demand of Rs 18000/-. Such mis-statement by Govt is a deliberate ploy to mislead and confuse the workers before the strike.

Govt’s offer of a floor level minimum wage of Rs 350/- per day, i.e., Rs 9100/- per month (26 days) is cruel joke by the Govt making a posture of accepting the demands of workers. Trade unions reject such a mockery in the name of offer with the contempt it deserves.

Releasing previous year’s bonus for the central govt employees is not something about Govt’s magnanimity. Govt did so to implement the enhanced ceiling as per the Payment of Bonus Act for them, which they should have done much earlier. Now they have released in order to deceptively pose that the Govt has been considering so many things. So far as the court cases on implementation of Payment of Bonus Act is concerned, it is the responsibility of the central govt to defend and implement the Act passed by Parliament, for which they cannot claim any special credit. But this NDA Govt should better note that it is the BJP Govt in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan etc have withheld implementation of the Bonus Act for the year 2014-15 on their own citing the High Court Orders in Kerala and Karnataka which were not binding on them. That makes the real intention clear.

Govt also stated that they will issue advisory to state governments to ensure registration of trade unions within 45 days. Advisory is not having binding impact. What is required is to make statutory arrangement. But in their proposals on labour reforms, Govt has already put so many conditions that would make registering trade union virtually impossible.

On being asked in the press conference about the right to minimum wages for the central Govt Scheme workers like Anganwadi, Mid-day-meal, ASHA etc , The Finance Minister brushed the questioner aside saying that scheme workers are all volunteers and not workers. He must recall that the 46th Indian Labour Conference held during NDA regime has unanimously reiterated the recommendation of the previous ILC that the Scheme workers should be recognized as workers with right to minimum wages and attendant benefits.

The Minister further stated that the scheme workers will be covered by the Social Security benefits for which a committee will be constituted. Almost same statement was uttered by him one year before on 26-27 August 2015, prior to previous general strike. Nothing has been done yet. Rather ESIC has offered extremely partial ESI benefit to Anganwadi and mid-day-meal workers on payment of Rs 250/- per month which amounts to 8.33% of the paltry earning of the anganwadi workers, 16% of the anganwadi helpers and 25% of the mid-day-meal workers; whereas the workers covered by ESIC Act are to contribute 1.75% of their wage for full ESI benefit. Such proposal is dubiously designed to deny them the social security benefit and this deceptive game is going on.

In reality, Govt’s announcement in the press conference on the charter of demands of the workers is nothing but a hoax and must be rejected outright. This is game to confuse and mislead people just on the eve of strike. Such deceptive and dubious ploy of the Govt must be combated through making the 2nd September 2016 a massive success.

Tuesday, 30 August 2016 08:57

12 POINT CHARTER OF DEMANDS

1. Urgent measures for containing price-rise through universalisation of public distribution system and banning speculative trade in commodity market

2. Containing unemployment through concrete measures for employment generation

3. Strict enforcement of all basic labour laws without any exception or exemption and stringent punitive measures for violation of labour laws.

4. Universal social security cover for all workers

5. Minimum wages of not less than Rs 18,000/- per month with provisions of indexation

6. Assured enhanced pension not less than Rs.3,000/- p.m. for the entire working population

7. Stoppage of disinvestment in Central/State PSUs

8. Stoppage of contractorisation in permanent perennial work and payment of same wage and benefits for contract workers as regular workers for same and similar work

9. Removal of all ceilings on payment and eligibility of bonus, provident fund; increase the quantum of gratuity.

10. Compulsory registration of trade unions within a period of 45 days from the date of submitting application; and immediate ratification of ILO Conventions C 87 and C 98

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11. Against Labour Law Amendments

12. Against FDI in Railways, Insurance and Defence

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Tuesday, 30 August 2016 08:48

Demands - General Strike 2nd September 2016

DEMANDS FOR A DIGNIFIED LIFE

On 2 September 2016, crores of workers across the country will go on strike demanding an end to the all-round attack launched by the government against their lives, livelihood and dignity. Representing the interests of the big capitalists, both domestic and foreign, the Modi government has been trying to fool the working people with false promises even as it supports and actively imposes a policy that is snatching away jobs, looting family budgets, disarming workers of their rights and opening the doors to harsher exploitation. Last year’s all India strike saw an incredible 15 crore workers go on strike. This strike on 2 September is bound to surpass that, telling the government and the ruling class that it is not going to back down. Here is a brief explainer of the workers’ demands:

 Urgent measures for containing price-rise through universalisation of public distribution system and banning speculative trade in commodity market

Prices of several essential commodities have steadily risen for the past two years. In some cases, like pulses, the rise has been as high as over 100%. Then, there are periodic spikes in some commodities like onions or potatoes. Net result is that working people’s family budgets have been devastated and they are having to cut down on nutritious food just to survive. Already, over 56% of women in the country and a similar share of children are anemic. The food security act passed in 2013 is yet to be rolled out fully. The Act is itself limited, providing affordable food grains to just two thirds of the country, and not having provision for increasing population. It does not cover many essential commodities. If more commodities, like pulses and oil are included and its coverage is increased to all the people, it will provide much needed food to malnourished families. This will also finish off hoarding and speculative trading which drives up prices. But the government is refusing to pay attention to hungry people across the country and continues to provide concessions to big traders and food companies.

 Containing unemployment through concrete measures for employment generation

According to government estimates, about 1.2 crore Indians join the labour force every year in India. There are already over 10 crore people unemployed and crores more who are called ‘employed’ but are forced to work in very low paying jobs – a hidden kind of unemployment. Women’s employment has hit rock bottom with just 27% women over 15 years of age working – one of the lowest in the world. The situation is explosive but the government is groping about, unable or unwilling to address the tide of joblessness. Its fancy schemes like ‘Make in India’ or ‘Skill India’ or industrial corridors are just pies in the sky, giving profits to industrialists but nothing for the workers. On top of this, govt. policies of privatization and contractualisation are creating more unemployment. Those who have jobs today face an uncertain future while the youth, among whom 25% are unemployed, are hopeless and angry.

 Minimum wages of not less than Rs 18,000 per month with provisions of indexation

Minimum wage rates fixed by state governments are cruelly low in shameless violation of well-settled principles and Supreme Court orders. According to calculations done by experts, for a worker’s family having three members, the minimum amount required for their food, shelter, clothing etc. is about Rs.20,000. This takes into account the principle set down by the Indian Labour Conference of 1957 and those laid down by the Supreme Court in 1992. Last year, the central government had suggested Rs.6098 as minimum wage, without any basis. Their real consideration was and still remains only one – profits of employers should not suffer, so keep the wages as low as possible. The trade union movement has adjusted its demand to Rs.18,000 instead of Rs.20,000 in order to make it more feasible. But the government is refusing to listen. With the way prices are rising, and with the public distribution system not meeting the needs inflation robs working people relentlessly. Hence a minimum wage linked to prices is of utmost importance to crores of workers across the country.

Real Wages of workers hardly rising

 

2002-03

2013-14

Monthly Wage (Rs)

4015.40

10092.84

Real Wage Index

100

111

Wage/Net Value Added (%)

17.23

14.13

Source: ASI

 

 

 Stoppage of contractorisation in permanent perennial work and payment of same wage and benefits for contract workers as regular workers for same and similar work

One of the surest ways for industrialists to depress wages, deny various benefits to workers and prevent them for organizing is the contract system that has spread across all sectors. Even in public sector enterprises 22% of the employees/workers are on contract. In private enterprises the situation is worse. Although clear laws exist that workers doing perennial nature of work should not be on contract and that contract workers need to be given the same pay and benefits as regular workers, employers have taken advantage of the govt.’s complicity and court’s indifference to flout these laws. As a result contract workers are to be found working at less wages and for more hours. This also destroys the unity of workers and weakens their striking power. All kinds of contractual labour needs to be ended and a united fight by regular and contract workers for regularization of contract workers has to be launched.

Contract Workers in Public Sector

1

Managerial/Executives

2.7 lakh

2

Supervisory

1.3 lakh

3

Workers

8.9 lakh

4

Contract workers

2.9 lakh

 

Total workers (2+3+4)

13.22

 

% Contract workers

22.40%

 

Source: Public Enterprises Survey 2014-15

 

 

 Strict enforcement of all basic labour laws without any exception or exemption and stringent punitive measures for violation of labour laws.
 Against Labour Law Amendments

Labour laws provide some protection to workers and ensure that they can survive under conditions of harsh exploitation. Laws on minimum wages, working hours, job security, medical support, provident fund, maternity benefits, etc. were won by struggles of workers decades ago. But it has always been a dream of capitalists to do away with these laws so that they can suck the last drop of profit from the workers’ labour. Modi government appears to have promised them to make this dream a reality. In many BJP ruled states wholesale changes have been made in labour laws so that employers can hire and fire workers at will and allow changes in service conditions. And, the central govt. is ready with new laws that will dilute existing ones. Already the labour laws enforcement mechanism had been destroyed by previous governments leaving the workers at the mercy of ruthless and greedy industrialists. Now this is being further ground down. Unless the workers step up and fight for their legal rights, they will even snatch away the right to form trade unions. , 80-90% of workers never get wages equal to them.

 Universal social security cover for all workers
 Assured enhanced pension not less than Rs.3,000 p.m. for the entire working population

Social security means ensuring that workers and their families get financial support for illness and for times when they are unable to work after a certain age. This is not some charity or goodwill gesture on the part of employers. It is a right of workers who spend their lives laboring away so that the employers’ earn their profits. But the government, far from acknowledging this universal right is conspiring to dismantle even the existing laws which cover only a fraction of India’s workforce. While refusing to extend ESI and EPF coverage to lakhs of workers in the unorganized sector, it has recently made several attempts to impose ceilings, use accumulated PF monies for investing in volatile stock market speculation, prevent workers from withdrawing from PF etc. It is also committed to converting the whole concept of social security into a profit making enterprise by trying to impose an insurance model (worker pays premium to private company) with no contribution from govt. Its proposal for such a macabre scheme for anganwadi workers/helpers with a premium as high as Rs.250 was defeated recently.

 Removal of all ceilings on payment and eligibility of bonus, provident fund; increase the quantum of gratuity.

Bonus is a small share of the profit that an employer makes from the labour of the workers. Suppose an industrialist makes 40% profit in one year. So, why should the share of workers’ bonus be limited to say 8.33% only? If there is no limit to profit there should not be any limit to the bonus share that a worker gets. Again, this is not some charity being asked for from the employers. It is a just and rightful share that the workers are asking. In fact bonus is actually considered a ‘deferred wage’ by the courts. This means that it is like wages except that it is being paid once at the end of the year. A similar logic applies to gratuity which is a rightful recognition of the years of service put in by the worker during which the employer had surely earned huge profits from the workers’ labour. So, when the worker retires or quits after many laboring years, should he or she not get a share of the wealth created by labour? The government of course is enslaved by the capitalist class and so it is blind to this logic. It only searches for ways to cut down on labour costs by depressing wages, cutting down on various entitlements like bonus and gratuity and snatching away social security rights.

 Compulsory registration of trade unions within a period of 45 days from the date of submitting application; and immediate ratification of ILO Conventions C 87 and C 98

The only way governments listen to workers is when they fight back the attacks. And, the only way workers can effectively fight back is when they are organized around a fighting banner. The government and the capitalist class knows this very well. That is why they are trying their utmost to dismantle the workers’ right to organize and fight. Already many changes had been made by previous governments in the Trade Unions Act which make it difficult for workers to register their trade unions or get recognition from managements. The present government, with its naked hostility to the working classis planning to further restrict this right. This attack is not confined to the government alone. The judiciary and bureaucracy, as well as dominant media and intellectual apologists for the bourgeoisie continue to abuse workers if they so much as stir one finger to get justice. Against this all round attack, workers have to strike back forcefully and retrieve their rights.

 Stoppage of disinvestment in Central/State PSUs
 Against FDI in Railways, Insurance and Defence

The public sector employs over workers in India. It controls many crucial and strategic sectors of the economy, providing a bulwark against private loot. But since the adoption of neo-liberal policies in the country there has been a systematic attempt to privatize the public sector and invite foreign capital in some parts of industry. The purpose of this vile conspiracy is to use national assets to fill the coffers of domestic and foreign companies. The present government is going about this greedily and with haste. It has set a target of raising Rs.56,000 crore from the sale of such profit making PSUs as BHEL, IOC, ONGC, HPCL, BPCL and few others. What will be the result of this? Firstly, the sale is being done at very low prices to ensure that private capitalists gain and the country loses. For example SAIL’s value is estimated at about Rs.5 lakh crore. But by pegging its share value at Rs.200, it could be sold for just Rs.82,600 crore! That’s less than one-fifth the price. But there is a more important aspect. Privatisation, especially if foreign ownership means that the country’s resources will be used for private profit not for the people’s good. Also, it will mean an open attack on the employed workers who will either get thrown out or converted to contract labour. Inviting foreign direct investment in such key sectors as defence and railways means that the country’s backbone will be handed over to foreign interests, who will no longer care for either the country’s sovereignty or for its workers.

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On 2 September 2016, crores of workers in India will strike work in order to force a deaf and blind government to reverse its anti-worker, anti-people policies. Among the burning issues being raised by the workers is employment and the loss of jobs. This was one of the key promises made by Modi and his Party in 2014 while seeking votes from people. Two years later the people have found out that Modi is simply continuing the same policies that previous UPA government had followed, which failed to create decent jobs for people.
Latest report confirms low job growth
Modi government’s shameless failure to generate jobs for the country’s people has again been confirmed by the latest Quarterly Employment Survey (QES) carried out by the Labour Bureau under the central ministry of labour. The 28th round report gives data for jobs added (or lost) in eight labour intensive industries during September to December 2015. The report says that far from adding any jobs, these industries reported a total of 20,000 jobs lost during the three month period.
The textile sector added 37,000 jobs but all the remaining sectors – leather, metals, automobiles, gems & jewelry, transport, ITES/BPO and handloom – showed job losses adding up to 57,000. Hence, the net job losses were 20,000.
Since June 2014 when the Modi Sarkar took power, a total of just 4.1 lakh jobs have been added till December 2015, that is, in 18 months. This is the worst performance for any preceding 18-month period going back to 2008-2009 when the world was engulfed in the biggest financial crisis since 1929. (See Table)

New jobs in 8 industries* (lakh)

Oct 2008-Dec 2009

UPA

3.89

Jan 2010-Jun 2011

UPA

12.54

Jul 2011-Dec 2012

UPA

8.63

Jan 2013-Jun 2014

UPA

5.65

July 2014- Dec 2015

Modi

4.1

*Textile, leather, metals, automobiles, gems & jewelry, transport, ITES/BPO, handloom/powerloom

Source: Labour Bureau

 

 

It is estimated that about 130 lakh people enter the job seekers army every year in India. Compared to that these eight industries which used to provide much higher employment in the past are currently adding just about 2.7 lakh jobs per year. This scale of crisis is something that has perhaps never been witnessed before in India. And the tragedy is that the present government has no clue about how to resolve this crisis.
During Modi’s tenure job-losses have occurred in leather, automobiles, gems & jewelry, and transport sectors. The only sectors where some increase has happened are textiles, metals and ITES/BPO. In the last quarter for which data is available (Oct-Dec 2015) two of these also showed loss of jobs – metals and ITES/BPO. The crisis is slowly engulfing every sector.
Various government schemes and pronouncements by ministers and BJP bigwigs in the past two years show that the government is groping for solutions. They claim that Make in India program will boost jobs. Then they say that industrial corridors will create millions of jobs. Then it is small and medium industries that will create jobs. Intermittently, they say that information technology (Smart Cities, Digital India, etc.) will solve the jobs problem. All these prescriptions have been bombastically announced by BJP leaders and government functionaries in just two years, and tom-tommed by the servile media endlessly. But the cruel reality is that job creation in falling relentlessly.

Wave of Job losses In industries

In fact, latest govt. data shows that investment itself is tapering off. If there is no money being invested by industrialists then how can new jobs be created? Gross Fixed Capital Formation – that is, the fresh investment in machinery and plant buildings and related infrastructure – increased by just 3.9% in 2015-16 compared to 4.1% in 2014-15. As share of GDP, it declined from 33% in 2013-14 to 32.3% in the first year of Modi Sarkar (2014-15) and further dipped to 31.2% in 2015-16.
It is small wonder that no new jobs are being created – the capitalist class is just not investing enough. This in turn is reflected in industrial production slowdown. The index for industrial production for manufacturing has increased by only 0.9% between June 2015 and June 2016. The Modi government, despite all its bowing and scraping to them, is failing to inspire any confidence. And the people have to pay the price for this disastrous situation.
In fact, since many sectors of industry are now integrated with the global economy, downturns in China and Europe have caused declines in production in India in a range of commodities like steel, leather, gems & jewelry etc. Domestic downturn has sapped industries like construction, cement, automobiles etc. All this has unleashed a brutal attack on workers’ livelihoods with thousands getting thrown out of jobs. This is Modi’s gift to working people – not only are there no new jobs, even existing ones are being snatched away.

Unemployment drags down wages

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This joblessness is having another very catastrophic effect. With so many people unemployed, employers are able to push down wages because there are many who are forced to work at very low wages just to survive. There is a mad scramble to get secure jobs. Last year, over 23 lakh people applied for just 368 peons’ posts advertised by the UP state government. That’s an indication of how desperate the situation is.
But Modi Sarkar continues to give speeches, hold mega events and dole out false promises. It takes care to protect and advance the interests of domestic and foreign capitalists, providing them with all kinds of concessions and incentives. It has laid open foreign investment avenues in a variety of sectors so that foreign capital is tempted. But this is not happening, and even if some foreign capital does flow in, it is not going to create many jobs.
In short, under Modi’s bankrupt leadership and assisted by his hand-picked team of economic advisors and ministers, the country is heading for ruin, and the people are being crushed under the weight of poverty, joblessness, wage freeze and loss of jobs. Hence the ongoing struggle led by central trade unions and the 2 Sept strike need to be supported by all sections of people. It is a fight for survival and a fight to secure a better future.

Savera

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29 September 2016

A study done by CITU through its affiliated federations in various key industrial sectors of the country has starkly revealed the wretched conditions of contract labour and the increasing use of this evil system by employers – both public and private – to extract the last drop of blood and sweat from workers to maximize their profit margins. Explaining the decade old trend of declining wage share over net value added and profits, the study shows that in all the sectors, there is an increasing share of contract workers and they are paid wages that are often one third of their regular co-workers. This forms one of the foundation stones on which profit is made by corporate entities. This division is also used to drive a wedge between workers, though this has notably failed as shown by the fact that the organized trade unions of the country (except the one associated with the ruling party) have taken up the struggle of contract workers and it forms a key demand for which a countrywide strike is going to be held on 2 September 2016. Below are given key findings of the study, sector by sector.

Steel

Of the total 5 lakh workers in steel industry, about 1.2 lakh or 25% are regular workers while the remaining 3.8 lakh are contract workers. Public sector steel units employ about 35% of workers while the private sector employs the rest. In public sector units 50% of workers are on contract while in private sector, about 90% are on contract.
In the public sector units, average wage of a workers will be about Rs.40,000 per month for a regular workers. But a contract worker may get as less as Rs.8000 to Rs.8500, although some may get more.
Steel industry is passing through a crisis. Now that the industry is integrated with global markets, fall in global demand and prices of steel and the government’s failure to protect the domestic industry has led to a wave of closures engulfing it and the smaller units suffering the most. Over 70 steel plants have shut down in Chhattisgarh while 65 units have closed out of 103 units in Raniganj belt in West Bengal. In Karnataka, Odisha and Punjab too a similar situation exists.

Road Transport

This is a massive sector in terms of employment with an estimated 4.5 crore workers, 90% of them in the unorganized sector. Workers include truck/lorry/bus drivers and auto drivers. Included are about 9 lakh workers in State Transport companies. Since most of the workers are in the unorganized sector, they are denied any labour law coverage and hence do not get minimum wages, ESI or PF facilities or pension, and have no job security.
On an average a truck/lorry driver gets about Rs.6500-7000 monthly wage while auto drivers earn about Rs.100-150 per day after deducting expenses like fuel, maintenance and rentals.

Water Transport

This sector includes port and dock workers at the 11 major ports of the country and many smaller ports and docks along the coastline. The 11 major public sector ports and docks employ about 65,000 workers while about 3 lakh contract workers are employed for cargo handling, stevedores and other work.
A regular workers gets, on an average, Rs.40,000 per month while the contract workers get about Rs.8000 monthly wage.
For the past 16 years there has been no recruitment of regular workers. Because of this policy, number of regular workers has declined from about 1.7 lakh in 2000 to the present 65,000. Government is bringing a new law in order to privatize govt. owned ports and docks, sell off land, coropratise the Port Trusts and use surplus funds.

Electricity

This vital sector employs about 22 lakh workers of which about 10 lakh are regular workers while 12 lakh are contract workers. Workers include employees of State Electricity Boards, power generation companies, both public and private, and distribution companies.
A regular unskilled worker may get an average wage of about Rs.15,000 while a skilled worker will get up to Rs.30,000. But a contract worker doing same kind of work will get just one-third of this.
The sector has seen considerable privatization over the years. Currently it is passing through a crisis because out of an installed capacity of about 2.8 lakh megawatt only about 1.5-1.7 lakh megawatt is being produced. This is because power consumption is flagging as industries are in a slowdown. This is having seriously damaging impact on power workers with contract workers not being able to get work.

Construction

One of the biggest in terms of employment the construction sector, ranging from brick kilns to giant construction projects like hydroelectric projects and roads, employs 5-7 crore persons. Except for the regular employees of some big construction companies, most of the workers are unorganized and contractual. There is also a big proportion of self-employed construction workers who take up small jobs like building dwelling units.
Wages vary widely across states ad type of work, with Rs.250 to Rs.600 per day for unskilled work and Rs.350 to Rs.1000 for skilled work.
Although various laws relating to construction workers have been enacted, providing for a welfare fund, and making builders responsible for providing housing etc., all this remains on paper. A 1% cess was supposed to be collected from the builders/contractors for spending on welfare of construction workers. Since 1996, Rs.70,270 crore should have been collected till 2016. But only Rs.26,962 crore or 38% was collected and out of that only Rs.5685 crore or 21% was spent. With government moves on allowing foreign capital to flow freely in construction, the situation will get worse.

Coal

This important sector employs about 6 lakh workers out of which about 3.3 lakh (55%)are regular and 2.75 (45%) are contractual. These figures are for the public sector. The government has auctioned off several coal blocks to private parties. Some have started production others have not.

On an average, a regular worker will earn about Rs.27,000 monthly. Unskilled contract workers will earn Rs.500 per day or about Rs.13,000 per month. But work is often not given for the whole month.
Over the years, as regular employees have retired, the govt. has not made fresh appointments and just replaced them with contractual workers. In this was over 15,000 workers have been replaced. Currently, the coal industry is passing through a crisis as a slowing economy has meant dipping demand for coal. About 45 million tonnes of coal are piled up at mine pit-heads. This is causing contract workers to be turned back for days.

Plantation

There are several types of plantations in the country – tea, coffee, rubber, coconut, cardamom, cashew etc. Most tea plantations are in Assam and W.Bengal while all others are in South India. An estimated 20 lakh workers are employed in these plantations, about 55-60% of them being women. About 10-12 lakh are regular employees while 8-10 lakh are contract workers. During heavy seasonal work, family members of workers also join in.
On an average the daily wage is Rs.132 for regular workers. In addition they get various facilities like housing, healthcare etc. and some firewood and rice (till NFSA started). Contract workers may get about the same cash amount but no other facilities. Most of them don’t get bonus or PF. The unions have been struggling for at least Rs.423 per day minimum wage for several years but TMC govt. in Bengal and first Congress and now BJP govt in Assam have been dilly-dallying. Women workers specific facilities like maternity leave entitlements are not implemented fully.
There has been a restructuring of the tea-garden ownership pattern in the past few years with several small gardens cropping up after the closure of 135 gardens in 2003-04. These are run by growers who may be propped up by larger entities. Although the tea market is growing steadily yet the workers in plantations are still suffering from low wages and job insecurity.

Petroleum & Gas

This sector employs 1.65 lakh workers in public sector enterprises. About 65,000 (40%) are regular workers while 1 lakh (60%) are contract workers.There are no details available for workforce in the private sector.
On an average a regular worker will get Rs.30,000 basic wage with various other benefits and allowances. The contract worker gets the minimum wage of the state in which he/she is employed and an additional 10% or other facilities. In some places even the minimum wage is not paid. Minimum wages vary from Rs.5000 to Rs.14,000 per month across states.

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Contract Labour: Slavery for Workers

         

Steel

     

Av. Wage (Rs./month)

Total Workers

5 lakh

 

Regular

40,000

Contract workers

75%

 

Contract

8500

Road Transport

     

Av. Wage (Rs./month)

Total Workers

4.5 crore

 

Regular

20,000

Contract workers

90%

 

Contract

7000

Water Transport

     

Av. Wage (Rs./month)

Total Workers

3.65 lakh

 

Regular

40,000

Contract workers

82%

 

Contract

8000

Electricity

     

Av. Wage (Rs./month)

Total Workers

22 lakh

 

Regular

15,000

Contract workers

55%

 

Contract

5000

Construction

     

Av. Wage (Rs./month)

Total Workers

5-7 crore

 

Regular

na

Contract/self-employed workers

 app. 95%

Contract

6500 to 18000

Coal

     

Av. Wage (Rs./month)

Total Workers

6 lakh

 

Regular

27,000

Contract workers

45%

 

Contract

13000

Plantation

     

Av. Wage (Rs./month)

Total Workers

20 lakh

 

Regular

3432 + housing + facilities

Contract workers

40-50%

 

Contract

3432

Petroleum & Gas

     

Av. Wage (Rs./month)

Total Workers

1.65 lakh

 

Regular

30,000 + perks

Contract workers

60%

 

Contract

5000 to 14000

         

Source: SWFI, RTWFI, WTWFI, EWFI, CWFI, CWFI, PWFI, PGWFI

 

Tapan Sen

General Secretary

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