People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)


No. 06

February 08, 2004

Trade Unions In The WSF



TRADE unions in India took keen interest in WSF-2004 and a convening group was constituted for ‘Labour in WSF’. Four seminars were planned by all the central trade unions together, which clearly reflected the unity of purpose. All these seminars were well attended and interesting discussions took place through floor-level participation.


On January 17, a seminar was organised on ‘International Working Class Unity against Imperialist Globalisation’. Chittabrata Majumdar, general secretary of CITU, was moderator of the seminar. The speakers highlighted the dangerous consequences of the role of the World Bank-IMF-WTO triumvirate and underlined the need for strengthening the struggle against globalisation. Umraomal Purohit, general secretary of HMS, delivered the keynote address.


Another seminar was organised on January 18 on ‘Privatisation, Disinvestments and Its Impact on National Economy and Working Class’. M K Pandhe, president of CITU, delivered the keynote address while H Mahadeven, deputy general secretary of AITUC acted as moderator. The seminar elaborated the international experience on privatisation and stressed how it has thwarted the development of economy in various countries. The speakers also highlighted the consequent attacks on labour rights by different countries to serve the interests of private capital.


On January 19, the seminar was on ‘Communalism, Religious Fanaticism and Sectarian Violence - Labour Rights and Trade Union Movement’. G Sanjeeva Reddy, president of INTUC, was the keynote speaker while Ashim Roy acted as moderator. The seminar discussed at length the depredations of communal and divisive forces in India and how the fundamentalist forces have been trying to threaten the unity and integrity of the country. The speakers noted the need for trade union unity to resist the dangerous consequences of these reactionary forces.


The last joint seminar was organised on January 20 on ‘Workers of Unorganised Sector and Unorganised Workers’. The keynote address was delivered by J Chittaranjan, president of AITUC, while R A Mittal, secretary of HMS, acted as moderator. The seminar noted the harrowing conditions of work for the large strata of the working class who are denied legal protection and social security benefits. Most of the workers live below poverty line and speakers pointed out the urgency of steps to be taken by the trade unions to organise them so that their vital interests are protected. In a seminar on the same topic, organised by the Centre for Education and Communication, P K Ganguly of CITU explained the nature of the Bill brought out by the government of India on the unorganised labour and how it failed to meet their aspirations.




Trade Unions in India jointly organised a conference on “Work and the World of Labour: Freedom, Equality and Labour Rights, Discriminations and Exclusions, Full Employment, Living Wage and Social Security” on January 20, presided over by Indira Jaisingh. It was addressed by Guy Ryder, general secretary of ICFTU, Alexander Zharikov, general secretary of WFTU, Willy Thys, general secretary of WCL, Prabhat Patnaik, a noted economist and Gerry Rodgers of the ILO. This was one of the WSF-organised events. All the international trade unions centres expressed their views on the issues from a common platform. M K Pandhe, while participating in the discussion, expressed regret at the disunity prevalent in the world TU movement, which was posing difficulties for waging a united resistance against globalisation. He appealed for international unity of the working class in the common struggle to defend the interests of the workers all over the world. Other participants in the discussion from India and abroad also expressed similar views.


The World Commission on the Social Dimension of Globalisation, constituted by the ILO, organised an international seminar on ‘Globalisation for People: Key Issues on the Social Dimensions of Globalisation” on January 17. It was presided over by Roberto Savio. Among the panellists who spoke were Ernest von Werzsaecker, German MP, Vicky Tahili Corpua, Director, Tebteoba Foundation Philippines, Eveline Hertkens, Coordinator for UN Campaign for the Millennium and M K Pandhe, president of CITU. Juan Somavia, director general of ILO, summed up the deliberations of the seminar. The speakers reviewed the impact of globalisation on the common people all over the world and underlined the need to protect the interests of the working class and the people. They also emphasised the question of international solidarity actions to achieve this objective.


Trade Union International of Public and Allied Employees (WFTU) organised two seminars during the WSF. On January 18, a seminar on ‘Privatisation and Its Impact on Livelihood and Jobs’ was held, while on January 19, the topic was on ‘Globalisation and Labour Rights’. Sukomal Sen, general secretary of TUI Public Employees, presented papers for discussion in both the seminars. Representatives of trade unions from all continents participated in these seminars and explained the issues faced by the trade union movements in their countries. There was a lively discussion by the participants after the main speeches. The struggles of the Tamil Nadu state government employees and the brutal repression unleashed by the Jayalalitha government were specially highlighted in the discussion. M K Pandhe spoke in the second seminar and highlighted the need for international solidarity action to defend TU rights.




A seminar on ‘Energy For All’ was jointly organised by the Right of Energy Association, Paris, and CITU on January 17. Over 250 participants attended the seminar, which was addressed among others by Micel Clerc, president of Right of Energy Association, Mrinal Banerjee, minister of energy in government of West Bengal, Shyamal Chakravarty and S Dev Roye, secretaries of CITU, Denis Cohen and Alain Simon of CGT France.


The speakers pointed out the need for right to energy for every citizen in the world. However, due to underdevelopment and poverty it was not available to every one. The control of the MNCs over Energy was criticised by several speakers and demand was raised for cheaper power to make it affordable to the common man.


Several delegates participated in the open discussion in which problems of different countries were highlighted by the speakers. They also pointed out the urgency of follow up action by the international TU movement to focus continued world attention on the subject.


On behalf of Southern Initiative on Globalisation and Trade Union Rights, an international meeting was organised on January 19 which was presided over by M K Pandhe, president of CITU, and Norma Binas, secretary KMU Philippines. About 200 TU representatives from all continents attended this meeting.

The meeting discussed the need for strengthening the struggle against globalisation, evolving common approach by the trade unions of North and South and coordinate the activities of trade unions in different regions. Speakers from South Africa, Brazil, and India elaborated the topics while representatives from South Korea, Italy, Philippines, Argentina, Sri Lanka and Taiwan expressed their support to the worldwide struggle against globalisation. The international conference of SIGTUR would be held at Bangkok, Thailand, in November 2004. Several speakers stressed the need for making the conference successful.




All India Insurance Employees Association and All India Bank Employees Association organised separate seminars during the WSF on financial sector reforms and their impact on the working class. The All India Railwaymen Federation organised a seminar on privatisation in Indian Railways.


World Federation of Trade Unions organised an international seminar on ‘Effects, Efforts and Future Struggle of World Working Class’. Alexander Zharikov, general secretary of WFTU, delivered a keynote address while speakers from different countries explained situation in their country. J Chittaranjan, president of AITUC, presided over the seminar.


The Korean Confederation of Trade Unions organised an international meeting on trade unions rights on January 18. It highlighted the danger of war preparations. The speakers’ opposed S Korean governments stand on sending troops to Iraq. Speakers from Japan, Indonesia and president of KCTU contributed papers in the meeting. The CITU representatives expressed support to the struggles conducted by the working class of South Korea. They also spoke on the struggles conducted by the Indian working class to safeguard their TU rights and mentioned about the nationwide strike being organised on February 24, 2004 against the Supreme Court judgement denying the working class the right to strike.


The International Transport Federation organised an impressive procession during the WSF, condemning the policies of globalisation, privatisation and attack on TU Rights. Umraomal Purohit, general secretary of HMS and D Cockroft, general secretary of ITF, led the demonstration. Transport workers from different countries participated in the demonstration.


World Confederation of Labour organised a joint meeting of ICFTU, WFTU and WCL to evolve common approach to the contemporary problems on January 15-19, 2004. Juan Somavia, director general of ILO, participated in the meeting and welcomed the initiative.


Over 700 trade unionists from outside India came to participate in the WSF which provided a common platform for the TUs of all affiliations to exchange views and ideas on the common issues faced by the contemporary trade union movement. An urge for common action was clearly reflected in the speeches of delegates.


Some foreign funded NGO’s from India however tried to organise separate programmes to criticise the central trade unions, which, according to them, represent only the organised section of the workers. Some of them even supported the steps taken by the government of India on the unorganised workers to create illusions among the working class. Though their programmes were well financed, they could not get much response from the participants in the WSF.


Over 300 representatives of CITU participated in the programmes of the WSF on all the days. W R Varada Rajan, secretary of CITU, worked as a member of the organising committee of WSF through out the period.


On the eve of the WSF, CITU organised a meeting of the representatives of the public sector unions to prepare for the nationwide strike on February 24. About 100 representatives from all major public sector undertakings participated in the meeting. Jibon Roy presented a report for discussion in the meeting. The meeting was presided over by A Dakshi, secretary of CITU and addressed by M K Pandhe, Chittabrata Majumadar, S Dev Roy, Dipankar Mukherjee, Shyamal Chakraborty, T K Rengarajan among others. The meeting gave a call to observe an all India campaign day on January 29 to popularise the strike among public sector workers all over India.