The Government of India, under Modi, does not want to ‘waste’ time. The attacks on the working class, in the name of reforms, are continuing. Now, the government even wants to ‘consult’ the trade unions on these reforms! What else can we say when within one and a half months; the labour minister finds time to discuss twice with the trade unions on the new bill for the small industries. The new bill will take around 70% of workers out of the ambit of 14 labour legislations including ESI and EPF. As in the first meeting on 17 December, all the trade unions again rejected the bill outright in the second meeting on 3 February. These meetings seem to be meant only for creating records of consultation with unions as the unions have been objecting to unilateral moves of the government.
While this bill is being discussed, the government talks about amendments to the Employees Provident Fund Act, where the government says that all factories and establishments with workers up to 10 will be brought under EPF Act, which is 20 workers at present. At the same time these proposed amendments also have many clauses which the trade unions have objected to. These are the types of ‘reforms’ that are happening. Many things in many directions!
At the same time, as per the directive of the PMO, many states like Maharashtra, Gujarat, and Madhya Pradesh are going ahead with amendments to various labour laws. In additions to these labour related legislations, the Government of India has come out with amendments to the Electricity Act 2003 and also a new Road Transport and Safety Bill to replace the existing Motor Vehicles Act. We do not intend to go into the details of these legislations once again. They are being brought in against the interests of the peopl eof the country. While the joint platform of central trade unions and national federations has called for country wide Satyagraha on 26 February against the government’s anti-people policies, various sectoral struggles are alsobeing organized.
Banking Sector Strike
The issue of wage revision pending for the last 2 years has not been settled and UFBU, the joint platform of employees and officers has been conducting struggles and strikes. UFBU, pointing out the failure of the employers to amicably settle the demands, has called for 4 days of strike on 25-28 February and also to go on indefinite strike from 16 March 2015.
All the federations in port and dock have decided to go for an indefinite strike from 9 March against corporatisation of the major ports in the country. These federations have been forced to take such a decision as the process of corporatisation of ports, now being managed under Major Port Trust Act 1963, is to be completed by 31March according to the ministry announcement. Corporatisation, as has been our experience in other sectors,will lead to privatization of this important sector.Postal StrikeNFPE and FNPO, both the recognised postal employees federations, have decided to go for an indefinitecountrywide strike from 6 May. This is mainly against the corporatisation of post offices and also on other demands including those of the highly exploited Grameen Dak Seva (GDS) employees.
BSNL employees and executives under the banner of Joint Forum are on a campaign demanding that the government take steps to save BSNL from ruin. On this demand a March to Parliament will be organised on 25 February and an indefinite strike from 17 March.The policies of those in power regarding BSNL have been to allow this PSU to suffer in order to increase the profits of the private players. It is such a shameful situation that this important PSU is not able to give SIM cards to those who want to become new customers. Unions have put forward detailed proposals to save the BSNL.
The employees of the 41 government departmental ordnance factories are up in arms against the proposed corporatisation of these establishments. AIDEF, one of the major federations in the sector, points out that this step is against various assurances given earlier and will surely lead to a major role for the private sector in defence production. This will also lead to disastrous impacts, with foreign players actively being in the sector. Added to these is the decision to go for increase in FDI from 26 to 49 per cent. Outsourcing and the wrong procurement policies have already diminished the performance of the production units despite considerable achievements in indigenous production.
Road Transport Workers
Major Road Transport Workers Federations and independent unions in various states have called for a one day country wide strike on 30 April protesting against the anti-worker, anti-people, anti-PSUs clauses in the new Road Transport and Safety Bill 2014 which is to replace the existing Motor Vehicles Act. Many state governments, truck operator organizations and officers of transport departments of the state governments have also objected to many of the clauses in the Bill, which the Modi government says will be adopted and implemented despite all the protests. Leaders of federations of CITU, AITUC, INTUC, HMS, BMS and independent unions met inthe BMS Central Office in New Delhi on 6 February and took a decision for a country wide campaign to befollowed by strike on 30 April.
Coal Workers against Privatisation
Coal workers federations, despite differences on the calling off the 5 day strike after 2 days of united strike, once again went on joint demonstration on 30 January against 10% disinvestment. Coal workers are determined to continue their struggle as also many other PSU workers, where the government wants to goahead with its privatization agenda.
Central Government Employees
Central government employees including railways, defence production and postal employees have come onto a joint platform for countrywide agitations that will lead to an indefinite countrywide strike. The demands include pay commission related issues, corporatisation of postal and defence departments, FDI inrailways, defence etc. Statewide conventions, rallies and a Parliament March on 28 April have been decided. The date for the indefinite strike is to be declared on the day of the Parliament March.
CITU led construction workers under the CWFI will organize a March to Parliament on 6 April to be followed by a country-wide strike on 1 June 2015. Countrywide campaigns are being conducted on 11 pointcharter of demands.
Electricity workers and engineers under a common platform NCCOEE are on a countrywide campaign against new amendments to the Electricity Act 2003. These amendments will go against the interests of thepeople.
Anganwadi employees under AIFAWH are continuing country-wide campaign and struggles on their demands and also on ‘save ICDS’, after their massive Parliament March in November 2014. ASHA workers will be organizing a March to Parliament on 2 March and Mid Day Meal Workers on 24 February. Struggles of various other sections of workers like fish workers and beedi workers are also going on in different parts of the country. Industrial workers like those of Foxconn are continuing struggles against closure. IT workers who are being thrown out of employment are also seen raising their voice in different parts of the country.
While the government records try to portray a picture of ‘industrial quietude’ the struggles are continuing. All out offensives are on in different parts of the country, denying even the fundamental rights to have a union of their own choice and the right to collective bargaining. Massive victimizations are also taking place against initiatives to form unions. Along with these are the problems of large scale contractorisation, increase inworking hours, non-implementation of labour laws and social security. In fact India continues to be among the top in the list of countries where strikes and lock outs are causing a huge loss of work days. With the government continuing its so called reforms spree, unions are also determined to resist and sectoral struggles as well as countrywide struggles will be the answer. The central trade unions will be discussing the issue of a one day country-wide strike against the central government policies.An analyst recently concluded his analysis on industrial conflicts in the post reform period in India asfollows, “The conflicts symbolize counter tendencies – employers’ labour flexibility versus employment security demands; wage flexibility versus enhanced minimum wages and its effective enforcement; authoritarianmanagement versus violent workers; individualisation of employment relations versus establishment andprotection of collective rights; the right to dismissal versus reinstatement; fiscal conservatism versus publicexpenditure on employment guarantee and social security and so on” (Shyam Sundar EPW Jan.17-2015).
In short it is a class battle that is going on. It is a struggle of the toiling masses against the policies of the ruling classes. Workers are Marching on….