People's Democracy

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


No. 35

September 01,2013

Public Sector TUs to Intensify Struggles against Disinvestment and Contractorisation

Swadesh Dev Roye

AN extended meeting of the trade unions of Central Public Sector Undertakings (CPSUs) was held at Ranchi on August 18, 2013. Around 200 delegates from a large number of CPSUs belonging to major sectors like coal, steel, oil and natural gas, power, heavy engineering, telecommunication, electronics, shipping, port & docks, construction participated in the meeting. These delegates were representing around 50 trade union organisations from 14 states. The Jharkhand state committee of the CITU hosted the meeting.

A background note explaining the government onslaught against CPSUs, especially its disastrous sell out of stake, monstrous contractorisation of workforce, and on the question of revival of sick CPSUs, was circulated to the delegates. Swadesh Dev Roye presided over the meeting while Tapan Sen, general secretary, CITU in his address narrated the main formulation of the background note and the tasks before the movement of CPSU workers. Many unions from different industries presented written notes on the current situation in their respective CPSUs. A separate booklet capturing briefly the picture of CPSUs in the state circulated by the Co-ordination Committee of Public Sector trade unions in West Bengal.


The government is going ahead with its programme of disinvestment of shares of the highly profit-making CPSUs, setting a big target to collect Rs 40,000 crore by selling shares in the current financial year (2013-14). Every case of disinvestment is a deal of under-pricing and distressed sale. Large quantity of shares of huge profit earning oil PSUs have already been sold out to private capital at throw-away prices. As a result, the government share holding of these oil PSUs, including ONGC, IOC, BPCL, HPCL, GAIL has come down to a dangerous level, close to the threshold of privatisation. Steps for further doses of disinvestment in IOC and Coal India are in an advance stage. Moves are afoot to privatise 15 major airports in the country, including Kolkata, Chennai, Ahmedabad, Jaipur, Lucknow and Guwahati through the so-called public-private-partnership (PPP) route. It is a glaring example of gifting away national assets to foreign and domestic private capital by the UPA-II government. Because only recently Rs 3700 crore has been spent by Airports Authority of India for modernisation and renovation of just Kolkata and Chennai airports, as also thousands of crores more for modernising the other 13 airports. Now efforts are on to hand over these to private players.

Alongside the drive for disinvestment, the government has also been pushing privatisation through the PPP route, shockingly, even in vital infrastructure sectors. Corporatisation of Port and Dock sector is being pushed by the government with the ulterior motive to pave the way for privatisation. Simultaneously, in the name of creating new capacity or expansion in the major ports like in Kolkata-Haldia dock complex and also in Andhra Pradesh, private players are being brought in


The real impact of the policy of disinvestment/privatisation has been discussed from the platform of public sector workers repeatedly. However, the class collaborationists have always been for mere formal protests and against any decisive struggle. On the other hand even in the camp of class oriented forces, the matter has not been understood with ideological clarity. It is very much essential to politically and ideologically educate our cadres, leaders and mass of the public sector workers that disinvetment of shares and privatisation of CPSUs is a capitalist onslaught comparable to ‘primitive accumulation of capital’. Without any investment of capital, the capitalist classes are accumulating huge public wealth with the support of the government of their own class.

To push the struggles against disinvestment to the level of do or die, it is a pre-condition to succeed in motivating public sector workers with conviction and commitment to fight against disinvestment. Lack of such motivation is one of the major reasons for our weakness in the anti-disinvestment and anti-privatisation struggles. However, the past heroic struggles of the workers of BALCO, NALCO, Oil & Natural Gas PSUs and the recent success stories of RINL and NLC workers and the past and forthcoming struggles of the workers of Coal India were duly highlighted in the background note.

It must also be noted that the anti-privatisation struggle cannot be kept limited within the domain of trade union movement since it is not the concern of the workers alone. The existence and operation of public sector units covering almost all vital sectors of the economy contributes a lot to the well being of people at large, besides keeping the national economy afloat with large doses of public investment even during the period of worst recession.


The drastic change in employees’ composition profile in CPSUs, largely due to sharp decline in the number of regular workers and atrocious increase in the number of contract workers, has created an explosive situation in CPSUs. This has also posed a serious challenge to the effective existence of the trade union movement. The very phenomenon of declining regular workforce and increasing deployment of contract workers on jobs of regular workers has been contributing to intensity of exploitation of labour as a whole and that has become the real incentive for the employers to promote contractorisation of regular, perennial nature jobs. The situation urgently warrants vigorous struggle to combat such an ominous trend. We have to counter the onslaught of continuing ban on recruitment of regular workers in PSUs and oppose tooth and nail the reckless contractorisation of all hues.

It must also be noted that along with the increase in the number of contract workers, the work content of contract workers has also undergone a sea change embracing regular operational jobs. Taking advantage of capital intensive, sophisticated technology based automation system, the employers’are deploying so-called executive cadres to jobs which were earlier being done by regular skilled workers. For example, today in continuously run process plants, the major shift points, including the entire control room, is manned by executives only, whereas earlier permanent workers used to man such work points.

In the process the employers’ class is drawing a design to realise their ultimate motive to turn the regular worker category redundant and ultimately eliminate the component of regular workers and restructure the human resource component composed of ‘Executive Cadres and Contract Workers’ (no permanent regular workers). The entire game-plan is to have a trade-union free workplace, which we must not overlook.

Today in all new generation of CPSUs the ratio of executive cadre and permanent worker cadre are in reverse pyramid size. In one of the NTPC’s supper thermal power plant, the employee composition is as follows: Executives around 350, Permanent Workers around 50 and Contract workers around 1500. These figures show that in future fully permanent worker-less enterprises are about to appear in our country. Here, we should not miss to mention about remote controlled manpower-less operational units already exist in our country. One example is certain units of Powergrid company.

Therefore, apart from the socio-economic urgency of seriously organising contract workers in trade unions, it is also necessary for the existence and effectiveness of the trade union movement itself in the organised sector. Contract workers have become indispensable human resource contingent in the entire process of the industry. Therefore, stoppage of work only by contract workers will simply collapse the operational process. So, the balance of working class power in such organised sector has hugely shifted with contract workers.


The CPSUs which became sick due to hostile policy onslaught of the successive governments under the neo-liberal economic doctrine have clearly emerged as cases of completely wrong decisions. The forewarning of our trade union movement that apart from commercial considerations, the country will have to pay heavy price for the social cost of closure of CPSUs under the plea of sickness has turned out to be totally true. Today, the trade union leadership in the fertilizer industry has come out with undeniable facts, figures and formulations that the then government has put the country into extra heavy financial burden on account of the increased dependence on import of fertilizers at much higher price from international market. This caution was given to the then government in black and white by our trade unions in the industry. There are many more such examples. It is time we take new initiative to raise our powerful voice on the streets and in parliament to fix responsibility for keeping the public assets idle due to wrong or no decision.


The meeting noted the following forthcoming struggles against disinvestment and restructuring of CPSUs. First of all in the face of steep opposition through various joint struggles by the trade unions, the government declared that instead of proposed 10 per cent, they will disinvest 5 per cent share of Coal India. The CITU Federation refused to agree even for the reduced stake sale and served strike notice alone. However, ultimately the CITU, AITUC, HMS, INTUC and BMS affiliated federations came to unanimity and have served notice for three-day strike during this September 23-25 opposing disinvestment of share and abolition of subsidiary-holding company structure in Coal India.

The major federations of port and dock employees are jointly opposing corporatisation move. In the civil aviation sector, Air India has already been pushed down to fourth position in terms of market share in traffic through calculated deregulatory drive on the one hand and reckless restructuring of the public sector airlines on the other. Similarly, moves for privatisation are on in the Airport sector. On July 29, 2013, a national convention of all the three federations of workers in the petroleum sector was held in Delhi which decided to organise a countrywide anti-privatisation struggle in the petroleum sector. This was followed by a meeting of 21 unions in the Indian Oil Corporation to decide company-wide joint campaign against disinvestment. A joint protest memorandum signed by all these unions has been submitted to the prime minister. Th United Platform of BSNL employees comprising of all the trade unions and officer associations, ‘Forum of BSNL Unions/Associations’, has declared its intention to conduct joint struggles for revival of BSNL. A national convention of the Forum was held which took this decision and resolved to save BSNL from the conspiracy of policy makers.

A total of 44 delegates participated in the discussion. The highly encouraging attendance, the reflection of a sense of realisation of the seriousness of the situation, bankruptcy and desperation of government policy on public sector were the highlights of the Ranchi meeting. The meeting has adopted the following programmes of struggles and organisational steps in order to strengthen the trade union movement of public sector workers and to build united struggles against dismantling of CPSUs in pursuance of the discredited neo-liberal policies by the UPA-II government.

  1. Anti-Disinvestment/Privatisation Day’ to be observed all over the country on September 23, 2013 in all CPSUs by organizing demonstrations, gate meetings, processions etc and to send faxes to prime minister, ministers of coal, petroleum & natural gas urging them to stop all disinvestment moves including of Coal India and Indian Oil Corporation.

  1. Join in full strength at state-level demonstration on September 25, 2013 called jointly by All Central Trade Unions and Industrial/Service Sector Federations

  1. Participate in the ‘International Day of Action’ at the call of World Federation of Trade Unions (WFTU) on October 3, 2013 being jointly organised by all Left Trade Unions in India

  1. All India Convention demanding revival of Sick CPSUs at Kolkata sometime in October 2013

  2. State level and Industrial Centre-level joint conventions of all CPSUs all over the country against (i) disinvestment/privatisation (ii) contractorisation and (iii) demanding revival of Sick CPSUs during the months of September-November 2013

  3. Trade Unions to organise a National Convention on the Issues of Contract Workers in CPSUs

  4. A two-day National Workshop of all trade unions on Organisational Matters in CPSUs

  5. In order to facilitate and monitor implementation of the programmes of struggles and strengthening of orgnisation a ‘Steering Committee’ with representatives from CPSU unions to be constituted in consultation with State Committees of CITU and Federations.