People's Democracy(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)
December 10, 2006
All Set For Strike On December 14
M K Pandhe
THE economic policies pursued by the UPA government has evoked strong resentment among all sections of the working class in India which is reflected in series of sectoral struggles breaking out unitedly in most of the states. The violation of the major commitments given in the National Common Minimum Programme for the working class has only added fuel to the fire resulting in mounting discontent among the working class of all affiliations.
The assurance given to the trade unions that they would be consulted on all issues concerning the working class was only implemented in breach. The committee constituted by the UPA government to prepare the bill on unorganised workers did not have any representative of the trade unions. The 40 member committee on labour policy during the Eleventh Plan has only one representative of the trade unions. Most of the tripartite committees, under the union Labour ministry did not meet during the year 2006. The government decided to amend the labour laws to provide hire and fire policy despite strong opposition of all the trade unions. In spite of opposition of all trade unions to introduce the fraudulent new series of Consumer Price Index with 2000 as the base year, the government has deprived the Indian working class of their rightful dearness allowance to the tune of thousands of crores of rupees every month.
VIOLATION OF ASSURANCES
The arbitrary reduction in the rate of interest on the Provident Fund deposits of Rs 1,28,000 crores has made a mockery of the social security measure and the proposal to increase the contribution of the pension scheme or to reduce the pensionary benefit has provoked a wave of anger among all sections of the working class. The drastic reduction in the public distribution system has pushed up the prices of all essential commodities, adversely affecting the livelihood of poor sections of the working class.
The blatant refusal to provide relief to the sick industry to make them viable as promised in the NCMP has added to the industrial sickness. Even statutory dues of the workers in these sick industries were not paid because of which thousands of workers had to commit suicide due to loss of their only source of livelihood. Despite announcement of Employment Guarantee Scheme the unemployment in the country has grown phenomenally while downsizing of jobs was in full swing during the last two and a half years of UPA regime.
The heroic struggle of the airport authority employees against privatisation of Mumbai and Delhi airports in blatant violation of the commitment in the NCMP that profit making public sector undertakings would not be privatised received wider support of the public sector employees. Several potentially viable public sector undertakings were earmarked for closure while disinvestments in public sector could be stopped temporarily only after the determined struggle of the employees Neyveli Lignite Corporation and NALCO. Foreign direct investments in telecom, banking, retail trade and construction sector have opened floodgates for the control of crucial sector of Indian economy by foreign capital.
The failure to bring bills for agricultural and unorganised sector workers resulted in deterioration in the condition of the vast strata of the informal sector workers while the working and living conditions of working women failed to show any improvement.
The non-implementation of the labour laws in EPZ and SEZ have created islands of absence of TU rights and decent living conditions. The right to strike came under heavy attack while pensions of the central and state government employees were sought to be determined by the vagaries of the speculative stock market. The phenomenon of bonded labour and child labour continue to bring shame to the Indian nation.
CLARION CALL BY THE SPONSORING COMMITTEE
Under these circumstances, the clarion call given by the National Convention convened by the Sponsoring Committee for a countrywide strike on December 14, 2006 was well received by the working class of all affiliations. The strike call did not include any economic demand of the workers but all issues were directed against the economic policies pursued by the UPA government.
As per decision of the convention of July 25, 2006 state level conventions were held in most of the states to popularise the demands raised by the national convention. These conventions were well attended and helped in building state level unity to strengthen the preparations of strike. Participation of several local unions outside the framework of Sponsoring Committee reflected the growing urge for unity among the working class.
The convention of state and central government employees held in Delhi on July 26, 2006 cemented the unity of 30 lakh central government employees and 70 lakh state government employees to support the strike call. Several rallies organised by the state and central government employees at the regional level as well as in Delhi have popularised the strike call among the government employees.
The state level conferences of CITU as a part of preparation of the 12th All India Conference, have given importance to the preparation for the strike. The massive response to the rallies along with the conference showed the enthusiasm among the workers about the nationwide strike action. The 5 lakh rally organised in Kolkata by the West Bengal state committee of CITU on December 3, in preparation of the strike, clearly reflected the fighting mood of the workers.
The rally organised by the AITUC in Delhi on November 23 also focused the attention on the strike call.
Most of the unions in banking sector employing 15 lakh workers have announced their full support to the nationwide strike action. Even the organisation of bank officers has declared their support to the strike call. The management of Reserve Bank threatened the employees with dire consequences if they resort to strike. However, the employees refused to be cowed down by the threatening posture of the RBI management.
In insurance industry, over a lakh employees have unitedly decided to down their pens on the day of strike. The All India Insurance Employees Association has organised a systematic campaign all over India while other insurance employees’ unions and officers lend their support to the strike call. Reports indicate that the strike in insurance industry would be total.
In pharmaceutical industry the FMRAI had prepared well for the strike action and the sales representatives in most of the pharma units would be observing the strike.
The All India Defence Employees Federation, the major organisation of 39 ordnance factories, has made extensive preparations to join the strike action. The steps towards privatisation of defence industry as recommended by Kelkar Committee has been a major thrust of campaign by the AIDEF unions. Several Defence Research Laboratories have also taken a decision to down their pens on the day of strike.
ENTHUSIASTIC RESPONSE OF WORKERS
The well attended convention of public sector unions, organised by the Committee of Public Sector Trade Unions (CPSTU) at Bangalore on November 7-8, 2006 in Hindustan Aeronautics Complex unitedly decided to observe strike in all the central public sector undertakings. The decision was also endorsed by unions, which could not participate in the Bangalore convention.
This time the participation of the unorganised workers would be much more than all the earlier strikes. Due to steep rise in prices of essential commodities without any commensurating rise in their earning resulted in reduction in their real earnings. Their involvement in demonstrations and rallies has increased considerably. The ten day dharna of anganwadi workers in Delhi, which was participated by thousands of women, only indicates the discontent prevalent among them. The deliberations of the recently held national convention of working women at Visakhapatnam also highlighted the growing participation of working women in preparations of the strike.
Several thousands of unions served strike notices to the managements unitedly on November 29, all over India through massive demonstrations. A remarkable enthusiasm was shown by the workers in these demonstrations underlining growing militancy among various sections of the workers and employees.
The inordinate delay in announcing the interim relief by the Sixth Pay Commission and the machinations of the UPA government to get the Pension Regulatory Authority Bill passed in Parliament have created much favourable atmosphere among the central government employees for a good strike action.
Though the INTUC and BMS unions in coal industry have not given strike notices, rank and file workers of these organisations are endorsing the strike call at local levels. In several places electricity workers have also served strike notices. Electricity engineers are also cooperating with workers in opposing the policies of the government.
Though the railway workers unions have not issued strike notices, attempts are being made to stop the railways by rail roko being organised in different parts of the country.
The major federations of Port & Dock industry have recently taken decision to join the strike which has added to the sweep of the strike. It should be noted that the last strike in port and dock was partial due to non-participation of some major unions. This time it is expected to have a total strike in the port and dock industry.
A well attended rally organised by All India Kisan Sabha on November 20 at Ramlila Ground passed a resolution expressing solidarity with the nationwide strike of the workers. It was a unique example of worker-peasant alliance and the peasants will extend their support to the working class action on December 14. The activists of organisations of women, students and youth have participated in rallies of workers to express their support to the working class action.
Thus the nationwide strike of the working class on December 14 will be the biggest mobilisation of the working class of India against the policies of globalisation and privatisation dictated by the World Bank and IMF. The UPA government will have to take note of the strong feeling of the working class of India against its policies, otherwise it will have to face still bigger mass actions by the trade unions in the forthcoming period.