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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.

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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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Tuesday, 30 August 2016 07:26

RISING PRICES – FROZEN WAGES

One of the key demands being raised by workers across the country and for which they are going on strike on 2 September 2016 is price rise. Like a slow burning fire, prices of all essential commodities have been steadily increasing over the past years. But food items, especially such essentials like pulses, milk and vegetables have risen steeply destroying family budgets of all except the rich. The Modi government has been claiming that prices are not rising by pointing at wholesale prices. But the common workers don’t go and buy dal and vegetables from wholesalers in mandis. They buy it from their local stores. These prices are somewhat more accurately reflected in the consumer or retail prices that are also available with the government but it refuses to look at them. This is another example of how the government is simply trying to fool the people rather than seriously tackle price rise.
There is another side to the story of sky-rocketing price-rise. This is to do with earnings of working people. The reason why price-rise hurts so much is that earnings never rise as much as prices of items that you buy. That is why price-rise is actually a hidden way of robbing the working people. Even if some increase in wages or salaries takes place, prices of essential commodities rise more than that and the working person’s family end up losing more than they gain.
Let us take a look at two examples. In rural areas, between March 2014 and March 2016, prices increased by 11% according to the government’s Consumer Price Index for Agricultural Labourers. This is, of course, an underestimate, but still it gives us an idea of how prices are increasing. Now have a look at the increase in wages for different kinds of work in rural areas, both agricultural and non-agricultural.

Prices vs Wages (March 2014 to March 2016)

In rural areas

For industrial workers

Price Increase

11%

 

Price increase

8%

 

Wage Increase (%)

Wage increase (%)

 

Non-Agri Labour

9

 

Textile workers

7%

 

Construction

11

       

Ploughing

11

       

Harvest

13

       

Animal husbandry

13

       

Agri Labour

13

       

Sowing

15

       

Source: Labour Bureau

 

For non-agricultural work, wages increased by just 9% in two years while for general agricultural labour wage rates increased by 13%. Compare this to the price rise: it was 11% in these two years. So wage increases are barely compensating for price rise. For construction and ploughing operations the wage increase is the same as price increase. In some other kinds of work wage increase is just a couple of percentage points above the price increase rate.
Here it needs to be kept in mind that wages are shockingly low, just allowing the family to survive. For example, in the data given above, all wages are roughly in the range of Rs 6000 to Rs 7000 per month, but not for the whole year. Most agricultural work is seasonal and even if there are two crops being grown, that may mean 6-8 months of work for a laborer’s family. If one adjusts for this seasonality of work, the monthly wage will drop to just Rs.4000 to Rs.5000.
Govt. data on industrial wages is scant and much delayed. The only kind of data available regularly is for textile industry. But it can be taken to represent general industry trends. Analysis shows an equally dismal situation. Prices have increased by about 8% over two years according to the Consumer Price Index for Industrial Workers but monthly wages have increased by just 7% in this period. So, industrial workers are actually losing out because of relentless inflation. Industrial workers get about Rs.8000 per month but this is for regular employees. Contract and casual workers may get as little as two-thirds of this amount according to trade union activists, with none of the other benefits given to regular workers.
This is the experience across the country from workers in big industries to small units, from agricultural labourers to cultivators. Where there are unions, or where the govt. feels it needs to prevent unrest (as in govt. employees) wage increases are linked to price rise. But for most of India’s 50 crore working people price rise continues to be a weapon of robbery.
It is for this reason that the workers are demanding that at least Rs 18,000 minimum wage be fixed for workers and that there should be linkage with price rise so that this robbery ends.

 

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Saturday, 27 August 2016 16:01

CITU Replies to Labour Minister

27th August 2016

Dear Shri Bandaru Dattatreya ji,

This refers to your D.O No. 21(24)/2016-IR dated Nil requesting reconsideration of the proposed strike call on 2nd September 2016 given jointly by the Central Trade Unions in view of the “proactive steps undertaken by the Government to address the charter of demands raised by the Central Trade Unions”. Your letter has been received by us on 26thAugust 2016 through e-mail.

At the outset, we are constrained to mention that we find no tangible ‘proactive steps’ in the details furnished by you, either in your letter or in the enclosed updated status of action taken, in favour of the workers so far as the 12 point charter of demands of the Central Trade Unions is concerned. In fact the ‘updated status’ enclosed with your letter is almost the same as that you circulated exactly one year ago, in the joint meeting with the central trade unions held on 26th and 27th August, on the eve of the general strike in 2015.

But the government has definitely taken several proactive steps, totally ignoring the opposition of the entire trade union movement and totally against the interests of the workers, during this period. To mention just a few: 1) Introduction of Fixed Term Employment in apparel manufacturing sector through an executive order, 2) Increase the permissible limit of overtime work from 50 hours per quarter to 125 hours through an amendment to the Factories Act, 3) Divert workers’ money in the EPF for investment in the share market, 4) Attempts to appropriate huge amounts of workers’ money in the EPF for other purposes unrelated to them, 5) Introduce the Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Bill with atrocious provisions attacking the road transport workers en masse. All these ‘proactive’ initiatives are against the basic interests of the workers and their rights. All the central trade unions have vociferously opposed these measures.

Your argument that ‘the running theme of the Labour Reforms is to ensure employment security, wage security and social security to all workers’ is totally contrary to reality and the experience of the workers. In fact, the focus of the so called ‘labour reforms’ has been to push the overwhelming majority of workers in the organised sector out of the purview of all basic labour laws including those providing social security. They empower employers to ‘hire and fire’ at their whims, legitimise contractorisation of regular jobs and deployment of apprentices/ trainees etc on payment of a small fraction of minimum wages. It is crystal clear to anybody objectively examining the entire ‘Labour reforms’ programme that it is designed to impose conditions of slavery on the workers. The conditions of even the miniscule proportion of workers in the organised sector who are at present entitle to a few benefits will become insecure, in terms of their employment, wages, social security etc. No trade union worth its salt can mortgage the interests of the workers by accepting such retrograde measures lying down.

Moreover, we cannot accept the claim that all your moves on labour law reforms are the outcome of tripartite consultations. It is a matter of record that all the central trade unions, repeat all, have unanimously opposed many of your proposals of labour-law-reforms and opinions of the trade unions have been totally ignored undermining the spirit of tripartism. Ignoring labour’s opinion on the measures by which labour will be affected most cannot be construed as consultation, which we urge upon you to appreciate.

We request you to verify your claim that ‘labour inspection system through the Shram Suvidha Portal has improved efficiency and transparency and expanded coverage’ with facts. Your own statement that only 12 lakh units have been issued Labour Identification Number (LIN) itself contradicts and refutes your claim. This is only an insignificant percentage of the total number of establishments in the country. While the data of establishments and workers captured by your Shram Suvidha Portal itself is insignificant compared to the total, routing inspection through this portal on the basis of 10% randomised selection is nothing but an attempt to minimise inspection and allow more freedom to employers to violate labour laws with impunity. It is strange, to say the minimum, to claim this as expanding coverage. To give a few examples: The total number of subscribers to EPF is only 3.71 crore while as per gross estimate another 3 crore workers in the organised sector itself, mostly contract workers are not covered by EPF, despite being legally eligible. ESI coverage is even less at 2.03 crore despite the fact that all establishments employing 10 or more are entitled to be covered by ESI while it is 20 in the case of EPF. These are just two examples of the horrible state of affairs related to implementation of labour laws and social security coverage. The basic purpose of the ongoing ‘labour reforms’ is to legalise and legitimise violations to ensure ‘ease of doing business’. You will kindly appreciate that no trade union worth its salt can sell out the interests of the workers by accepting this situation lying down.

Claims are being made to extend coverage of social security schemes like EPF and ESI to scheme workers since last more than a year. But what has actually happened till date? For example, ESIC proposed to cover the scheme workers viz., anganwadi and mid-day-meal workers to provide limited benefit on payment of Rs250/- per month which means 8.33% of the paltry honorarium of anganwadi workers, 16% for the helpers and 25% for the mid-day-meal workers. Whereas for other workers covered under ESI Act, the contribution is only 1.75% of their monthly wages for full ESI benefits. Can the anganwadis and other scheme workers afford such high burden of contribution out of their paltry honorarium ranging from Rs 1000/- to Rs 3000/-? This is nothing but a posture made by the Govt for publicity and real game is to deny them the actual coverage through backdoor.

Your statement that ‘disinvestment is being made to bring in efficiency’ and FDI ‘for infusion of capital’, is also unacceptable since that does not stand the test of rationality. The government today is, clearly, not confining itself to ‘disinvestment’. It is reported that NITI Ayog has prepared a list of 74 PSUs including the highly profit making ones for total sell out in the name of ‘strategic sale’. The government has not issued any rejoinders to these reports. No patriotic trade union, for that matter, no patriotic organisation can accept this policy of sell out of PSUs which hold the foundation of our national economy. Similarly, unrestricted FDI in defence, railways, banks and insurance and retail trade cannot be accepted by us, as it is against the greater interest of our people and the national economy.

In view of the above, it is not possible for us to reconsider the decision to go for countrywide general strike on 2nd September 2016, which we request you to kindly take note of.

In this connection, we also convey our strong protest against the discriminatory treatment meted out to the central trade unions by the government, while openly patronising one. It is highly regrettable and shocking that the Group of Ministers formed by the government to discuss with the central trade unions on the 12 point charter of demands, of which you are also a member, is patronising and confiding with one union which is not a party to the call for general strike by holding discussions with it, while the central trade unions which have given the strike notice are ignored. We denounce such undemocratic bias on the part of the government, which is unprecedented in post independent India.


With regards,
Yours sincerely,

( TAPAN SEN )
General Secretary

26th August 2016

Foil the Conspiracy to Distract the Countrywide United Struggle


Centre of Indian Trade Unions denounces the dubious conspiratorial move by the Govt to sabotage the countrywide General Strike on 2nd September 2016 called jointly by almost all the Central Trade Unions in the country alongwith all the independent national federations of the employees of banks, insurance, defence, telecom state and central govt departments against the anti-worker, anti-people policies of the Govt pushing the lives of the working people at large as well as the national economy to the path of disaster.

Despite continued persuasion by all the Central Trade Unions for sorting out the 12 point charter of demands involving demands of not only the workers but the entire common-folk, the Govt of India adopted an arrogant non-responsive attitude while unilaterally taking one after another step towards imposing retrograde changes on the rights and working conditions of the workers, ignoring the oppositions of all the Central Trade Unions and federations including BMS.

Despite announcement for countrywide General Strike on 2nd September 2016 as back as on March 30, 2016 by all the Central Trade Unions and National Federations in the country except BMS, the Group of Ministers formed by the Govt for the purpose did not bother to even call the concerned Central Trade Unions for any discussion. On the other hand, the Govt started confiding on the same issues of the General strike with its non-striking ally, seeking to create an impression as if the Govt is responding to the demands of the workers. This is nothing but a conspiracy to create confusion and foil the forthcoming strike. It must be retorted back effectively.

On so called Labour law reforms which are designed to push overwhelming majority of workers out of the coverage of basic labour laws, introduce “hire and fire”, legitimize contractorisation of regular work and promote work at payment of less than minimum wage, etc, the Govt repeated its stale statement that same will be done through tripartite consultation. In fact does such tripartite consultation make any sense where the unanimous opinion of all the central trade unions including BMS is totally ignored and decision is taken by Govt-employers unholy gang-up? In this process only, Factory(Amendment)Bill was introduced in Parliament, Small Factories Bill has been given Cabinet approval, “fixed term employment” is being introduced through executive order, Provident fund money has been parked at stock market for gambling, ESI Act is being sought be amended for replacing ESI by mediclaim products, Motor Vehicles(Amendment) Bill has been introduced in Parliament to impose atrocious conditions on the road-transport workers enmasse. Side by side, through the BJP-ruled state govts, mass scale retrograde changes in all labour laws have already been put in place in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Haryana, Maharashtra etc. Hence all talks of tripartite consultation is nothing but a fraud and farce.

The entire trade union movement of the country, irrespective of affiliations condemns and denounces such anti-democratic conspiratorial design of the Govt and calls upon the working people of all affiliations to give a fitting reply to such dubious conspiracy of the strike breakers by making the Countrywide General Strike on 2nd September 2016 a massive success.
Issued by


(TAPAN SEN )
General Secretary

CITU strongly denounces the anti labour measures in the so called special package for the textile and garment sector approved by the Union Cabinet without any consultations with the trade unions.

After announcing sweeping changes in the FDI norms, the government has come out with this ‘special package’ for the textile and garment sector. It is atrocious that the Finance Minister tries to woo investors by pointing out at the ‘rising wages in China’. It is clear that by this that he invites investors to utilise the cheap labour in our country with a veiled commitment to make that cheaper, so that they can reap more profits. It is even more appalling that these measures are claimed to ‘help in social transformation through women empowerment’ while what they would actually lead to enslavement of the workers in the garment sector. Can hypocrisy and deception go further ?

The government has put forward the bogus argument that the garment industry is ‘seasonal’, to find a plea to introduce the ‘fixed term employment’ and facilitate ‘hire and fire’ of workers as per the convenience of the employers. It is to be recalled that the erstwhile NDA government issued the notification on fixed term employment which was strongly opposed by the entire trade union movement and had to be rescinded during the UPA regime in 2004. CITU condemns the attempts of the BJP government to introduce fixed term employment once again. Increasing the overtime cap from existing 50 hrs in a quarter to 96 hours and simultaneously talking loud about employment generation is another deceptive and fraudulent manoeuvre sought to be perpetrated on the people and the workers.

As per this special package, Provident Fund would be made optional for the employees earning less than Rs 15000 per month, indicating the persistent attempts of the government to pave the way for demolishing this time tested social security scheme .

The package also provides other concessions to the employers like the government utilising people’s money in national exchequer to pay the employers’ share of PF contribution, flexibility of labour laws, duty draw back etc. It is nothing but part of the neoliberal design of the BJP led government that seeks to promote the interests of the big corporations and multinational companies by imposing burdens and attacking the rights of the workers.

CITU demands the government to immediately withdraw the anti worker measures in the ‘special package’. It calls upon all the workers to oppose these measures of imposing slavery on the workers through massive participation in the joint countrywide general strike on 2nd September 2016.

Issued by:
Tapan Sen
General Secretary

Wednesday, 22 June 2016 08:49

CITU Denounces Changes in FDI Norms

21st June 2016

CITU strongly denounces the sweeping changes made by the Modi led BJP government to ease FDI in nine key sectors including defence, aviation, pharmaceu tical and food processing.

The decision to ease norms to increase FDI in strategic and sensitive sectors like defence, aviation etc shows the subservience of the government to the interests of the big multinational corporations and international finance capital and its willingness to sacr.ifice the interests of our own country and its people. The PMO has proudly proclaimed that India has now become the most open economy in the world for FDI.

The argument that this would 'provide major impetus to employment and job creation' is totally spurious and false.

Experience in our country has shown that despite all the concessions and relaxations given to attract FDI and the hype that is generated, the amount of FDI that has come to the country is nominal. Most of the foreign money that has come into the country is only for purchasing equity in the existing companies; not to invest in any new production. It has not generated any new employment. Rather, the opening of our markets to the products of multinational companies to appease them has proved disastrous to our domestic industry resulting in the closure of many of our own industries, particularly in the small and medium scale sector, which provide the largest employment, as these industries are not in a position to compete with the big multinational corporations. Thus instead of any job creation what has resulted is loss of employment and deceleration in employment generation.

It is to be noted that the entire trade union movement has been demanding withdrawal of the government decision to increase FDI in insurance, defence and allowing FDI in railways and included it as part of its 12 point charter of demands. The joint trade union movement has given the call for a countrywide general strike on 2nd September 2016 preceded by massive Satyagraha on 9th August to press for these demands. The decision of the government not only shows its total apathy to the unanimous demands of the trade union movement but also its eagerness to satisfy the multinational corporate at the cost of our national interests.

CITU demands withdrawal of the decision to ease the FDI norms.

Issued by:
Tapan Sen
General Secretary

Tuesday, 14 June 2016 15:27

CITU SECRETARIAT MEETING

PressCommunique 14th June 2016

CITU SECRETARIAT MEETING ON 13-14 JUNE 2016 CALLS FOR
· Countrywide Massive Solidarity Mobilisation In support of the peoples’ struggle against barbarous attack by Trinamool Congress Goons
· Extensive campaign for the Countrywide General Strike on 2nd September 2016

The National Secretariat of Centre of Indian Trade Unions in its meeting held on 13-14 June 2016 at New Delhi has taken the following decisions:

1. CITU congratulates the working people of Kerala for ensuring resounding victory of the Left Democratic Front in the just concluded Assembly elections

2. CITU also expresses serious concern and severe indignation at the barbarous attacks being unleashed by the Trinamool Congress goons on the people, particularly supporters of Left forces, trade unions and other mass organizations with active patronage of the state administration. CITU also has been targeted for this attack, assault and intimidations. Hundreds of offices were captured, ransacked even burnt, members and sympathisers are being assaulted and threatened to leave the organisation. A demonstration of inhuman barbarism throughout the state is going on with direct state-patronage and the purpose is to eliminate and mime the Left opposition through a reign of terror. It has reached to such heinous height that the TMC goons while carrying on physical assault on the people did not spare a pregnant woman and her baby was killed in the womb itself. Our comrades in West Bengal have not given the walk-over to such barbaric assault on democratic and human rights of the people and have been bravely fighting such assaults through mobilising people in different parts of the state. While extending solidarity to the people of West Bengal in heroically resisting the barbaric onslaught on democratic rights, with the toiling peoples’ organisation at the forefront of that battle, CITU already called upon the state committees to organise solidarity protest against the attack on democratic rights and reign of terror in West Bengal.. CITU Secretariat now calls for widespread countrywide campaign against ongoing barbarous attack on the people of West Bengal by the TMC goons with Govt support to culminate in massive demonstration/mobilizations in all the states and industrial centres on 28th June 2016. 

3. CITU Secretariat has reviewed the preparatory campaign activities being undertaken in the states and industries for the call of countrywide General Strike on 2nd September 2016 against the anti-people and anti-worker policies of Narendra Modi Govt which is also aimed at imposing slavery on the working people in the country at the behest of corporate and big-business houses, both domestic and foreign. The call for General Strike was given jointly by almost all the central trade unions in the country from the National Convention of workers held on 30th March 2016 at New Delhi. The urgency for the countrywide strike action has become crucially important in view of the all round decline, disaster and gloom in the national economy as well as on the lives and livelihood of the common people brought about by two years’ rule by the BJP Govt at the centre. The media-hype sought to be created by the Modi Govt about the so called successes of its two years’ rule through its lie-campaign, must be given a fitting rebuff by the working people of the country through making the united call for countrywide General Strike on 2nd September 2016 a massive success. CITU Secretariat has called upon all the state committees, federations and unions to intensify the campaign for making the strike action aimed at reaching the widest sections of the workers and the people in association with other central trade unions.

4. The 15th All india Conference of CITU is going to take place on 26-30 November 2016 at Puri, Odisha in which around 2500 delegates from all over the country and across the industries and services are going to take part. The Conference will be preceded by the All India Convention of Working women to be held in Andhra Pradesh. The Secretariat discussed organizational details on the conference preparations including holding of the state level conferences in all the states.


(Tapan Sen )
General Secretary

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