People's Democracy

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


No. 18

May 18, 2008



Central TU’s Call

Countrywide Strike On August 20

SEVEN central trade unions at a national convention of trade unions in New Delhi on May 13, 2008 called upon the working class and trade unions to launch a united struggle through a phased, four point action programme. The central trade unions, namely CITU, AITUC, HMS, AICCTU, AIUTUC and TUCC got the backing of several federations ranging from the banks, railways, insurance, central and state government employees, defence, telecom, airlines and airports. Among those who addressed the meeting were CITU president M K Pandhe, Gurudas Dasgupta, AITUC, R A Mittal, HMS, Abani Roy besides leaders of several federations among others.

The meeting decided on a four point phased programme culminating in country wide general strike on August 20, 2008. The programme is as follows:

Speaking at the convention M K Pandhe charged that price rise had hit the common man hard, while we had the dubious distinction of producing multiplying billionaires and in stark contrast the teeming millions living on a pittance below the poverty line. And price rise continues unabated despite government shows of containing it. He spoke of the fraudulent consumer price index, questions of women equality in the age of globalisation, blatant non implementation of labour laws, withdrawal of social security measures and lack of even human development pointing to our coming at the virtual end of the human development index.

The commission came out with a six point charter of demands. These are:

  1. Take urgent step to contain price-rise through (a) universalising the public distribution system throughout the country to cater all essential commodities at controlled price through PDS, (b) ban on futures and forward trading in all essential commodities, (c) reduction of tax in petrol and diesel, (d) stringent action against hoarding and black marketing.

  2. Strict implementation of all labour laws particularly in respect of minimum wages, working hours, social security and safety and stringent action against all cases of violations; stop contractorisation and outsourcing.

  3. Scope of the unorganised sector workers social security bill pending in parliament should be expanded to cover all unorganised sector workers irrespective of BPL or APL category to ensure a national minimum social security benefit for them as per unanimous recommendation of the National Commission for Enterprises in the Unorganised Sector (NCEUS) and the parliamentary standing committee on labour with central government funding.

  4. Farmers loan waiver scheme to be extended to loans from private money lenders; nationalised banks to extend easy credit to peasants at lower interest rate.

  5. Lift ban on recruitment in government services; remove the negative and discriminatory features in the recommendation of sixth pay commission and finalise the same for implementation in consultation with the employees organisations; expedite regularisation and grant of pension to gramin dak-sevaks.

  6. Expedite wage negotiation for the employees of central public sector units including the contract workers without any condionalities.

The declaration summed upon the feeling of the speakers. It stated, ‘The national convention of trade unions being held at the call of the sponsoring Committee of trade unions comprising the major central trade unions in the country and the all India federations/associations of employees in telecom, railways, defence, banks insurance, various public sector units, central and state government offices and departments etc, expresses grave concern over the disastrous fall out of the anti-worker, anti-people neo-liberal economic policies of gloablisation and privatisation of the government at the centre leading to relentless price rise which has hit hard the common people and virtually pauperised the working class and the poor.

The convention strongly denounces the government for not honouring the commitments made in its National Common Minimum Programme (NCMP), with the result that the agrarian crisis continues unabated, speculative trading dominates the commodity market, public distribution system stands virtually collapsed making the situation unbearable for common people. The government turned a deaf ear to the popular demands of the people to universalise the public distribution system, ban futures and forward trading in essential commodities, reduce the tax burden on petrol and diesel and take strong visible action on black-marketing and hoarding to protect the common people against the impact of price rise. Fruits of higher GDP growth are being totally cornered by the rich and moneyed class leaving the mass of the people in the midst of crisis and impoverishment.

The working class and peasantry who create wealth for the nation are getting raw deal. Despite increase in agricultural production last year, mass of the common peasantry and agricultural workers did not find any improvement in their livelihood. The scheme of loan waiver announced in the current budget did not include loans from the private money lenders which constitute around two third of the total agricultural debt. Despite announcement of so called relief package for the farmers, the farmers’ suicides continue as a regular phenomenon.

The workers and employees also face severe exploitation. Growth in industrial and service sector is accompanied by mass scale outsourcing, contractorisation and causalisation at work places throughout the country which is aimed at curtailing the wage cost through distressed wages to a large section the workers and employees. The gain of growth is thus being cornered by the employers’ class. Unemployment is also growing alarmingly. Basic labour laws in respect of minimum wages, working hours, social security benefits are being desperately violated by the employers with active indulgence and patronage of administration. Opposition and protests by the workers and trade unions to such labour law violations are being sought to be suppressed by force and repression both by employers and the state administration. The provisions of the unorganised sector workers social security bill 2007 placed in parliament is totally inadequate to ensure a minimum social security cover for the concerned workers and as such, overwhelming majority of the unorganised sector workers in manufacturing and services are virtually kept outside the coverage of that legislation.

The convention takes serious note of and condemns the blatantly negative and discriminatory features of the recommendations of sixth pay commission and its design to promote contractorisation and outsourcing in government departments. The convention also denounces the approach of the government towards the seventh round wage negotiation for the employees of central public sector units and its anti-worker guidelines with various negative conditionalities. The convention notes with concern the insistence of the government for disinvestment of public sector units shares and its negative approach in prompt revival of the sick and potentially viable public sector units.