(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)
April 12, 2009
Workers’ Charge-Sheet Against Congress-Led Govt
Below we give highlights from the booklet released by the CPI(M) as part of its election campaign material
FOR the working class battling the impact of recession, the forthcoming Lok Sabha elections are a crucial political challenge, the outcome of which will decide the fate of millions of working people.
The Congress-led UPA government is in a state of utter denial about the recessionary impact on the working class. Its interventions have been designed as corporate bailouts, while workers’ interests have been ignored. This callousness towards the plight of crores of working people hit by recession in the organised and unorganised sectors comes as an added blow to the five years of incessant attacks on the working class during the UPA rule. Even as employers are being handed concession after concession, the UPA government in contrast has refused to even begin the seventh round wage settlement negotiations for public sector workers which fell due in January 2007.
It was in this period that the judiciary made an all out attack on the rights of the working class to go on strike. This government could jump to the defence of every corrupt corporate, refused to enact any legislation to guarantee the workers’ right to collective bargaining including the use of the weapon of the right to strike.
In this entire period, the BJP-led NDA, did not raise a single policy issue to protect the working class. On the contrary their main criticism of the UPA was that they did not undertake so-called labour reforms under the pressure of the Left. Indeed, it was only the Left parties through their militant interventions in parliament and outside which could to an extent put a brake on the onslaught against the workers and employees.
When it assumed power, the UPA government under pressure of the Left parties had to include some pro-worker assurances in its Common Minimum Programme. But in practice, the Congress-led government did just the opposite.
LOSS OF JOBS
Under the UPA regime at least one crore jobs vanished as a result of its policies of a ban on recruitment, abolition of posts, casualising and contractualising the work force.
The UPA government and the NDA before it have pushed policies of outsourcing, of changing the service conditions of regular work into contract labour and casual labour thus depriving workers of their legitimate rights, forcing them to work at very low wages. The central government itself has taken the lead in this. The much praised turnaround of the railways for example has much to do with the ruthless slashing of regular jobs and privatising and outsourcing of many of the services.
In the private sector, job security has decreased drastically in various areas of industry like mining, services, IT sector, civil aviation, and so on. The number of workers in regular employment out of the total work force has come down from 9 per cent to only 5 per cent in the last decade.
This does not take account of the estimated job loss of more than 5 million workers during the last six months due to global financial melt down.
The ban on recruitment has especially hit the dalit and tribal youth. Moreover the promise to introduce reservations in the private sector was not implemented since the UPA government did not have the political will to force the corporate sector to accept reservations.
CHARGE 2: UNDERMINING
This “deregulation” in employment conditions means that employers are given complete freedom to decide wages, working hours, benefits and social security of the workers and most importantly in practice a policy of dismissal and retrenchment was put in place.
In the name of abolishing inspector raj, the Congress-led government has demolished the entire labour laws enforcement machinery. This single step has helped the employers to intensify the exploitation of labour to unprecedented levels.
Workers have suffered big losses in terms of denial of a minimum wage. With minimum wage inspectors being withdrawn in many states, the employers imposed wages far below the notified minimum wage, taking advantage of the vulnerability of the work force and the desperate need for work. A report of the International Labour Organisation says that 30 crore Indian workers work for less than a dollar per day.
Shockingly, the share of wages in the net value addition in industry according to NSS data has come down to just 12 per cent in 2006 compared to 30 per cent in the nineties. Instead of helping the small scale enterprises against unfair competition vis-à-vis large industries or facilitating their access to bank credit, the UPA government encouraged them to devise ways and means to deprive the workers and avoid PF, ESI, accident and other legal benefits. The UPA government has given the employers further concessions. They need not file their returns as required under law. As a result 94 per cent of workers in unorganised and informal sector are totally unprotected. In the “newer” industries like the IT sector, the UPA government has given huge concessions to the employers. But in contrast, the conditions of IT workers are terrible and even minimum rights of collective bargaining for better service conditions and wages are denied to them. In the so-called SEZs, the UPA government has refused to make amendments to the Act regarding the extension of the full labour laws to the SEZ.
CHARGE 3 MOCKERY OF
THE RIGHTS OF
The National Commission for Enterprises in the Unorganised Sector had, in consultation with the trade unions, made very important recommendations for guaranteed wages, work conditions and social security schemes for the over 40 crore unorganised workers to be backed by central allocation of funds. The UPA government in the first instance rejected the recommendations and produced a very ineffective draft. The standing committee of parliament recommended that this version be scrapped and a new improved legislation be drafted. In a blatant display of its contempt for the working class, the UPA government pushed through a truncated legislation which is high on rhetoric and near zero in substance. Moreover for agricultural workers, a comprehensive protective legislation has not been enacted.
CHARGE 4: BLOW TO
WORKING WOMEN’S RIGHTS
The UPA government’s policies have been particularly callous towards women workers. For example, lakhs of women are employed as anganwadi workers, helpers, as accredited social health activists (ASHAs) or mid-day meal workers. The government has burdened them with onerous responsibilities, yet they have been denied even minimum wages and other benefits.
At the workplace there have been increasing cases of sexual harassment of women workers both in the organised as well as the unorganised sector. Yet the UPA government has refused to bring a law to protect women at the workplace even though the Supreme Court had suggested the guidelines over twelve years ago. Nor have they brought legislations to mandate women’s security in the night shift.
CHARGE 5: ATTACK ON
PF & PENSION RIGHTS
Only 4 crore workers are covered under the Provident Fund scheme. Recently the UPA government brought down the threshold (eligibility) number from 20 to 10 workers in all establishments. But this long standing demand of the workers remains on paper as no action has been taken to implement it.
The NDA and UPA governments brought down the rate of interest from 12 per cent to 8.5 per cent. The UPA government wanted to bring it down even further but was prevented from doing so by the trade union movement and the Left parties. The UPA has given huge benefit to employers by giving cheap credit at low interest and punished the workers by reducing the only old age benefit available to them.
The Congress-led government shamelessly worked for the benefit of finance companies who wanted to get their hands on the crores of rupees of workers savings to speculate with on the stock market. In spite of opposition from the trade unions and the Left parties, the government decided to invest PF money in the share market through private fund managers like HSBC, Reliance Capital, ICICI Prudential after withdrawal of support by the Left parties. This has put the workers only savings in great danger as the share market is collapsing everywhere in the world.
THE ROLE OF THE LEFT
Only the Left parties prevented the situation from getting even worse. Both inside parliament and outside in support of the huge resistance movements of all sections of the workers, the Left parties halted the untrammelled policy of globalisation, liberalisation and privatisation.
To Defend the Public Sector
The Left parties played a historic role to prevent the privatisation of even a single Navratna company during the period it supported the UPA government.
The government decided to privatise four major airports of Airports Authority of India (AAI), a profit making PSU. Because of the opposition by the Left parties, they had to limit it to two of the four which was also strongly opposed by the Left. The Left also foiled the attempts of UPA government to disinvest Neyveli Lignite and NALCO and got an undertaking from the government not to disinvest any Navaratna PSU in future.
To Save Banks and Insurance
Every effort was made by the UPA government to push through legislation to bring FDI into the insurance and banking sectors. Today in the entire capitalist world there is a severe crisis and bankruptcy of the most well known banks and insurance companies. If this has not happened in India it is solely due to the persistence of the Left parties in defending these crucial sectors against the efforts of the UPA government to increase FDI in the Insurance Sector from 26 per cent to 49 per cent and to permit 74 per cent FDI in banks by allowing them representatives on the Board. The Left parties blocked these legislations
To Save the Retail Sector
It was the Left parties which similarly blocked FDI in the retail sector, which otherwise would have led to loss of livelihood of crores of people. In countries where Walmart operates, it has retrenched thousands of employees in the name of recession.
To Protect Pension Funds
In the US where pension funds were handed over to private players, millions of dollars of workers funds have been wiped out in the crash of stock markets in the global crisis. The UPA government tried very hard to hand over the workers’ and employees’ funds to private financial companies. The Left parties prevented this from happening.
To Uphold Labour Rights
In almost every parliament session the UPA government tried to bring a legislation to take away the labour rights of workers and to permit employers to fire workers at will. The Left parties prevented such a law from being passed.
The CPI(M) stands for alternative policies: the protection of the public sector, the protection, defence and advance of the rights of workers and employees, the extension of protective legislation as well as social security schemes backed by government funds to the unorganised sector. In the three states where the CPI(M) is in government, the above alternative policies have been clearly reflected in the governance.