(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)
February 01, 2009
Workers To Observe Demands Day On March 2
THE national working committee meeting of the Construction Workers’ Federation of India was held in Mangalore, Karnataka on January 16-17, 2009.
R Singeravelu presided over the meeting. Debanjan Chakrabarti, general secretary placed the work report along with the future programme of action. Comrades from different states shared their experiences on how the world economic crisis is affecting the construction industry in India.
All on a sudden, in most of the states in our country, work on the private housing projects came to a standstill. It lead to retrenchment of thousands of construction workers like masons, carpenters, barbenders, painters, electricians, sanitary work mestry, both male and female. Only government (central and state) housing projects are going on. In some states, construction workers’ wages have been reduced by 15-20 per cent. In addition to this, the prices of construction materials like steel, cement, paints, bricks, stones, electrical and sanitary fittings, wood became so high that the housing projects slowed down in many places. Hence many construction workers were laid-off temporarily.
Besides this, in the name of environment protection, the lifting of stones from quarries, stone crushing work, sand collection from river banks has been stopped totally in some states. This rendered thousands of workers jobless. Their daily life now-a-days is beyond expression in words.
The mud made tile workers in thousands lost their job in Mangalore, southern district of Karnataka because their 300 years old factories have been closed and the workers are on the streets now.
This situation has got aggravated more due to the invasion of MNCs into the Indian construction industry. They are bringing the plant and machinery from their own countries, instead of purchasing them from Indian manufacturers.
The union government allowed 100 per cent FDI in housing sector in India. As a result, many corrupt foreign housing developers entered India and earned more than 20 per cent from a project, which is un-imaginable in their own countries. Adding fuel to the fire, is the non-implementation of labour laws for the construction workers including the welfare fund Act of the construction workers.
In this situation, the working committee has decided to go on a nation-wide pre-parliament election campaign through out India in 20 states (where CWFI has its affiliated unions) for electing Left and democratic forces’ candidates and defeating the Cong and its allies and BJP and its allies. CWFI will issue national level leaflet which will be translated into regional languages and distributed in lakhs. Posters and stickers in regional languages in lakhs will be pasted. Mass meetings, street meetings, processions, conventions will be organised. This time, in every state - individual members of CWFI affiliated unions will get a request/appeal letter from their own union president and general secretary to vote for Left and democratic candidates in the parliament elections.
The committee further felt that after this parliament election, preparation should be made for nation wide strike in construction industry in order to save the industry and its workers.
CWFI will send participants from all states to the February 18, 2009 parliament march at the call of sponsoring committee of trade unions. CWFI will observe a national demands day on March 2, 2009. The demands are as follows.
Stop retrenchment /lay-off and wage cuts on the pretext of financial crisis.
Give priority to relief measures for the common people. Guarantee protection of jobs and additional employment generation.
Revise upward the minimum wage rate for both urban and rural construction workers.
Ensure strictest implementation of labour laws including construction workers welfare Act in all the states and union territories.
Universalise public distribution system.
Increase public investment in agricultural infrastructure projects with specific thrust on power, road, irrigation and waterways.
Amend the unorganised workers’ social security Act based on the recommendations of the parliamentary standing committee.
Provide universal coverage to National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme. Create more jobs in labour intensive sector like construction industry.
Ensure implementation of ‘Rashtriya Swastha Bima Yojana’ (RSBY) for all construction workers of BPL and APL category all over India to provide cashless health insurance cover of Rs 30,000 for hospitalisation and certain day care procedures.
Housing for all construction workers.
Ensure inclusion of CITU representatives in all the state and union territories’ Construction Labour Advisory Boards.
Prices of construction materials like cement, steel, points wood, electrical fittings, sanitary fittings be brought down to ensure more construction work.
Construction Workers of Karnataka March Ahead
The first state conference of Karnataka State Construction and other Building Workers Federation was held on January 18-19, 2009 in Mangalore.
CITU state president, B Madhava hoisted the red flag of CITU. Leaders and delegates paid tributes at the Martyrs column. The conference was presided over by Federation president B Madhava. The welcome address was given by K R Sriyan, president, CITU South Kannada district committee.
Debanjan Chakrabarti, general secretary, CWFI, inaugurated the conference. He spoke on how the world economic crisis affected the Indian construction industry and its workers. The workers are being laid-off, retrenched, and compelled to do work on a 15-20 per cent lesser wage. Private housing complex work either stopped or slowed down. MNCs (construction) are importing plant and machinery from their own countries. Hence, Indian companies are not getting sufficient orders for survival. At the same time, increase in prices of all construction materials like steel, cement, wood, paints electrical and sanitary fittings led to less private house building and maintenance work. It causes less work for self employed construction workers like mason, painter, carpenter, bar bender etc.
Chakrabarti said that the UPA government’s policy of appeasement to USA and its allies has badly affected the Indian economy as a whole. The working class has to fight against these policies, he said. On February 18, 2009, a rally in Delhi would be organised and on March 2, 2009, the all India construction workers’ demands day would be observed, he said and called upon the workers to make success both these programmes.
This conference was greeted by K V Jose, vice president of CWFI and chairman, Kerala state construction workers’ welfare board. He elaborated the benefits given by this board to the construction workers in Kerala.
Kotam Raju, president of Andhra Pradesh Building Workers’ Federation and R Singeravelu, president, CWFI and general secretary of Tamilnadu state committee of CWFI greeted the conference. Vara Lakshmi, CITU Karnataka state secretariat member also greeted the conference. The condolence resolution was moved by Veeraswamy, the general secretary of the state Federation. He also placed the report and the accounts for the last three years. 208 delegates including six women delegates from 16 districts, out of total 29 districts of the state attended this first conference.
Twenty two comrades spoke on the general secretary report and made very positive contributions. They said that the present membership of 10,000 would be increased to a three fold by the next state conference. They said political schooling for the trade union activists should be organised and felt that regular guidance from the state centre can help in preparing a base for statewide construction workers’ struggle.
Veeraswamy replied and placed a programme of action as per the decision of the 44th national working committee meeting. The new committee of 40 members has been elected in the conference with B Madhava as president and Veeraswamy as general secretary.
The conference ended with an impressive rally of more than 5000 construction workers on January 19, 2009. The rally was addressed by V J K Nair, state secretary of CPI(M, R Singeravelu and Veeraswamy. The mass meeting was presided over by B Madhava.