Committee of Public Sector Trade Unions

The emergence and sustenance of united trade movement of the Central Public Sector Undertakings (CPSU) Workers in India has a very long history. The very beginning can be traced in the joint convention of the CPSU workers held at Hyderabad on 23-24 December 1977. That period has been significant for the reason that a new political situation emerged in the country with defeat at the hustings the most atrocious avowedly anti-worker authoritarian ‘Internal Emergency’ (June 1975 to November 1977) regime of Indira Gandhi and the Janata Party Government came to power at the centre. Although CPSTU formally came into existence a few years later, actually this convention laid the foundation stone for the CPSTU.

The period since the Hyderabad convention, the country witnessed regular hectic activities of the Central Public Sector Undertakings (CPSU) workers jointly organised by CITU, AITUC, HMS, BMS and the two Apex Forums of CPSU workers at Bangalore and Hyderabad. The struggles took place at industry, regional and national levels.

The major issues of the period concerning which the struggles took place were against wage freeze steps of the Government, against anti-worker unilateral guidelines issued by Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE) directed at curbing the right to collective bargaining, against fraud in compilation of Consumer Price Index (CPI) and proper fixation of rate of Dearness Allowance, Bonus to all workers etc etc. The other most important issue of the same period was the fight against atrocious Industrial Relations Bill designed to take away the trade union rights of the workers, opposition to Compulsory Deposit Scheme (CDS) etc.

The CITU has been taking very seriously the joint movement of the CPSU workers right from the inception. The organisational strength of CITU amongst the CPSU workers all over the country since then has been growing rapidly. Rajib Gandhi Government, in the mid-eighties, took concrete steps to ideologically and financially weaken public sector in the country. The ground work was done by the infamous Arjun Sengupta Committee Report which recommended taking away the workers collective bargaining rights among other steps. CITU took initiative to defeat this design and unify the public sector workers against such moves.

A related important development of the period was a convention of the CPSU trade the unions affiliated to CITU and also the unions friendly to CITU was held at Bangalore on 27-28 May 1985 which was attended by 284 delegates representing 84 trade unions from different CPSU workers. Reporting about the convention it was noted that, “the Bangalore convention has been a turning point in the PSU trade union movement. This initiative of CITU paved the way for consolidating the unity of PSU workers and ultimately the CPSTU came into being.”

Amidst the aforesaid on going struggles of the CPSU workers a joint national convention took place at New Delhi on 21-22 October 1986. Around 300 trade unions and 50 National Federations of the CPSU workers represented by over 800 delegates participated in the convention. A 14-point Charter of Demands (CoD) was adopted in the convention. The programmes to press for the CoD finalised in the convention included a nationwide strike on 21st January 1987. The convention expressed its firm resolve to fight the policy of demolition and privatisation of CPSUs initiated by the then Rajiv Gandhi Government.

The other historic decision of the same convention was the formation of Committee of Public Sector Trade Unions (CPSTU). The founding constituents of the CPSTU were CITU, AITUC, HMS, BMS, Joint Action Front (JAF), Bangalore and Co-ordination Committee of Public Sector Trade Unions, Hyderabad.

As a sequel to the demolition of Babri Masjid and accompanied communal holocaust in the country designed and executed by the ‘Sangh Parivar’ in 1992 the BMS got separated from the CPSTU.
CPSTU took formal shape of a united platform of the major segment of the trade union movement in the country including the core and strategic sectors through a long drawn phase of united struggles of the CPSU workers. It has truly emerged from the thick of struggles. CPSTU is the concrete manifestation of the concept of Unity and Struggle. In fact CPSTU is the longest ever united forum of trade unions continuing its active existence in the country. No other joint initiative or forums of trade unions in the country existed for such a long period. At the peak of its activities the CPSTU had really represented around 20 lakhs (2 million) workers spread over around 200 CPSU in the country.

The contributions of CPSTU strengthening the trade union movement in the country have been huge in dimension and basic in character. The activities of CPSTU contributed in broadening the functioning frame work of the major industrial sector trade union movement from the confine of factory level to industry-wise national level. The major industry-wise national federations really derived strength from the activities of CPSTU. At the instance of CPSTU the industry-wise national level joint activities of trade unions in different industrial sectors got a big boost. Thus the working class movement of the country switched over from local level consciousness to national level consciousness as a consequence of the emergence of CPSTU.

Yet another major area in which the contribution of the CPSTU must be counted the most is the realisation of PSU-wise apex level collective bargaining system. This achievement of the CPSTU has made significant contributions in many ways in our trade union movement. One of the basic rights of the workers i.e., Right to Collective Bargaining got institutionalised for the workers of the CPSUs covering the almost all the major industrial sectors in the country. This has also shown the way to others.

Over the period the compensation package of the CPSU workers achieved the height of setting standard in the country. This has been possible entirely due to the united strength and struggles of the around 20 lakh PSU workers engineered by the CPSTU. Before the surfacing of the collective agreements of the CPSU workers the situation was pitiable. But it is important to understand and remember that but for leadership provided by CPSTU in fighting the policies of the Government in restricting the right to collective bargaining and achieving quality compensation package it would not have been possible to achieve by the individual industries or CPSUs as it is before us today. These are of course, apart from the contribution of CPSTU in the general trade union movement of the country in fighting the anti-worker policies initiated by the ruling classes from time to time.

And with the introduction of the World Bank and IMF prescribed economic policies by the Congress party Government in July 1991 and pushed with added degree of onslaught by the every successive Government at the centre focusing all round attack on public sector, the fight to protect public sector became the most urgent issue before the CPSU workers in particular and CPSTU unfailingly played its historical role. Before 1991, the period preceding to the introduction of the disastrous Fund-Bank dictated economic policies, the CPSU workers conducted many long drawn battles including many strike struggles for the cause of public sector industries and its workers. These struggles were led by CPSTU. However in the current onslaught against public sector since 1991, the struggles has attained new dimension necessitating broader level of intervention of the patriotic democratic movement of the country and the CPSTU is a front ranking constituent of these struggles.

However, CPSTU is really the source of inspiration and symbol of struggles for the CPSU workers in the country. Presently the top most priority task before the CPSU workers is to protect the public sector from the liquidating onslaught of the policies of liberalisation and privatisation. At the same time the urgent economic issues pertaining to the current round of collective bargaining for the 7th round of wage negotiations is also important. CPSTU is definitely destined to discharge its historical responsibilities in this respect.

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