People's Democracy(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)
January 20, 2008
Bengal CITU Calls For An End To The Contract System
THOUSANDS OF WORKERS ATTEND KOLKATA CONVENTION
THE size of the hall in Sealdah in downtown Kolkata proved manifestly inadequate to accommodate the thousands of thikadarishramiks (contractual workers) who came at the call of the Bengal CITU. They came to attend and to participate in a convention that called upon the union government to end the contract system, one of the worse forms of exploitation of workers. Addressing the recently-held convention were CITU Bengal president, Shyamal Chakraborty, CITU Bengal general secretary, Kali Ghosh, secretary, Dipak Dasgupta, and vice-president and MP, Laxman Seth. CITU secretary Debanjan Chakraborty raised the resolution that was later unanimously adopted.
ILLS OF THE
By keeping alive and expanding, the contract system, the speakers pointed out while addressing the gathering in support of the resolution, the UPA government, playing a willing host to imperialist globalisation, would allow the management to use the backdoor to employ cheap labour for whom they would come up with neither responsibility nor accountability. The widest spectrum of industrial units and systems of productions, from the Railways to the software industry, was dominated more and more by the dictum where perennial jobs are done through exploitation lowly-paid contractual work forces.
Debanjan quoted the relevant percentages of contractual workers in the leading industrial sectors.
Chemical, oil, natural gas 70% each
Other sectors, the resolution mentioned clearly, where the rate is uniformly at 100 per cent or slightly under, are security services, peons, gardeners, lift operators, generator and air-condition machine operators, canteen staff et al. The number of contractual workers is on the increase in railways and even in the defence services.
The minimum wage announced under relevant legislations are not disbursed to contractual workers by the management in the state and the private sectors. Large percentage of the thikadari workers stand deprived of leave, overtime, accident insurance and compensation, PF, ESI, and gratuity. The hours of work have reached up to 12, and the workers are regarded as the responsibility of the thikadars or contractors, and not of the management as such.
In the wake of the all-India thika shramiks convention held earlier in November last year at the call of the sponsoring committee of TUs, and the organisation of an all-India ‘demands day’ on January 8 this year, the Kolkata convention adopted a 13-point charter of demands.
All kinds of thikadari workers and workers under outsourced agencies must be regarded as workers under the principal management.
Contract workers in perennial jobs must be made permanent. Any management proving an exception must be punished under law.
Outsourcing must be recognised as contractual work and must be brought within the existing thika shramik act.
Equal work will entail equal pay. This must be made part of the main body of the thika shramik act.
Art 10 (1) of the act must be changed to prevent any adverse fall-out of the Supreme Court’s recent judgment.
Contractual workers must receive the wages of a perennial work for the same job / work.
All employers and thikadars must possess valid license from appropriate authorities.
Contractual workers must not be dismissed when there is a change of contractors.
The annual return sent forth to the concerned government offices by the principal employer must include such details as the license numbers of thikadars employed by him, number of contractual workers, wages paid, and conditions of employment etc.
In case of an accident occurring to a contractual worker, adequate compensation must be paid, and a member of his / her family employed in his / her place if the accident is fatal or leaves the worker incapacitated.
The principal employer must put to practice all the relevant legislations in force in the country; they must make provisions for PF, ESI, pension, other social benefits, housing, crèche, child education etc for the contractual workers.
The union and the state governments must create inspectorates for the contractual workers.
A workers’ monitoring board must be set up to supervise the implementation of legislations for the thikadari workers and for the inter-state migrant workers.
Speaking on the tasks ahead, Shyamal Chakraborty said that after TUs for the thikadari workers are set up, there should be coordination between industry-based TUs for perennial workers and thikadari workers. Even if the two unions are not able to function as one, the leadership of the two unions should be common.
The struggle ahead to root out the thikadari system is a long one and that once the wages and other benefits of the thikadari workers are made at par with perennial workers, the management would find it useless to employ thikadari workers since the present benefit differentiation would then be gone.
Kali Ghosh pointed out that the present convention was a new beginning for Bengal. Kali Ghosh stressed on a united struggle must be launched in support of the 13-point charter of demands. He cautioned that if a series of struggles were not built up in good time, the next stage would see the perennial workers’ rights under attack with more and more casualisation and contractualisation in place. He spoke about the unholy nexus between the management and the union government against workers’ rights.
Dipak Dasgupta stressed the contractualisation in force in the railways and said that ‘once the railways had a work force of 20 – 22 lakh which is down to 14 – 125 lakhs at present.’ Various divisions of the railways like catering. Cleaning, electrical services are now run by staff fired through contractors. The aim is to make 90 to 100 per cent of the railway staff contractual workers of various abilities and skills, but all earmarked by low wages and salaries, and no TUs or social benefits.
The convention which was also addressed by several thikadari workers themselves, ended with a rousing slogan for the end of the pernicious thikadari system with waves of struggles and movements all over the country under the banner of the CITU and other Left TUs.