ML UPDATE 19 / 2012
2 May 2012
May Day 2012:
Resist the Onslaught Against Workers' Rights!
Demand Dignified and Secure Work for All!
International Workers' Day is an occasion to honour the long legacy of the struggle of workers for their rights, offering a revolutionary challenge to the regime of capital. Even as we salute the memory of the heroic Haymarket martyrs who laid down their lives in the struggle for the 8-hour working day, we are reminded that workers' hard-won rights are under unrelenting assault today.
Laws to guarantee minimum wages, working hours, the right to unionise, and restrictions on contract labour, are all being blatantly violated in India, even as the Prime Minister loses no opportunity to preach the need to 'rationalise' and dilute labour laws! Even in the government sector, the principle of 'equal pay for equal work' stands mocked, with the increasing employment of contract labour.
But if the assault is severe, fresh waves of workers' resistance are being witnessed. Be it workers in the automobile sector – in factories like Maruti in Gurgaon, Rockman and Satyam in Dehradun, or Pricol in Coimbatore – struggles are being waged for the right to have a recognized union and dignified rights at the workplace. Unorganized sector workers and contract workers are also waging significant struggles are several places.
Ironically, the corporates and their ruling class political representatives in the Government, urge dilution of labour laws in the name of creating jobs! We may recall that the policies of liberalization were ushered into India in the 1990s, precisely in the name of creating new job opportunities for Indians. Instead, the two decades of liberalization are witness to 'growth' that is abysmally bereft of jobs. The employment rate in India has fallen from 42% in 2004-05 to 39.2% in 2009-10.
What liberalization has achieved is to shrink avenues for employment – and to drastically alter the character of the work that is actually available. Increasingly, jobs are casualised, contractualised, and completely lacking in security, dignity, and basic rights. Between 2004-05 and 2009-10, the number of casual workers grew by 21.9 million, while growth in the number of regular workers nearly halved (compared with the period between 1999-2000 and 2004-05) to 5.8 million. The number of the self-employed, dominated by agricultural workers, fell by 25.1 million.
In general, employment has become difficult to access – and the workplace has become more exploitative and insecure. At the slightest attempt to organize themselves or challenge labour law violations, workers find themselves being shown the door. In the metros, migrant and contractualised workers are especially vulnerable. Women are disproportionately represented in the least-paid and most-exploitative jobs. Again, even in the government sector (such as the rural health ASHA and anganwadi employees), women's labour is being exploited, for a mere pittance in terms of pay, as these women workers are denied recognition as government employees.
In this backdrop, the demand for the right to dignified and secure jobs for all gains great urgency. This demand has significance far beyond the trade union or workers' movement alone. This May 1, the AISA and RYA have launched a students and youth campaign, resisting corporate plunder and corruption, and demanding the right to education and employment. The demand for the Right to Employment to be declared a fundamental right – in the sense of dignified and secure employment for all, and a dignified unemployment allowance for all jobless people above the age of 25 – is one of the crucial demands raised by this campaign, which will culminate in a militant student-youth gathering at Parliament on 9 August 2012.
Internationally, May Day 2012 mobilizations reflected the energy of the Occupy movement against corporate plunder and greed, and the huge people's movements against the austerity measures being imposed by various governments in the name of coping with recession. Workers, students and young people played a very significant role in those movements in the US, as well as European and Latin American countries. In India, too, students, young workers, and job-seekers must join hands to challenge the policies that promote corruption and corporate plunder and exploitation at the cost of young people's basic rights to education, and to dignified and secure jobs.
CPI(ML)'s First Mumbai-Thane Conference
The first Conference of the Mumbai-Thane unit of CPI(ML) was held on 20 April at Comrade Jayant Ganguly Nagar (Boisar-Jambhlapada) at Comrade Ashok Kumar Hall. The Conference began with hoisting of the party flag by Comrade Kisan Dublake of Jambhlapada. CC member Swapan Mukherjee, who was also the central observer at the Conference, paid floral tributes to the martyrs' memorial. Around 60 delegates, of whom half were women, participated in the Conference.
The Conference was conducted by a 5-member presidium, headed by Comrade Shyam Gohil, who presented a political-organisational document for discussion in the house, which was read out by Comrade Dhiraj Rathod. After discussion, the document was unanimously adopted by the house. A 11-member Mumbai-Thane committee with Comrade Shyam Gohil as Secretary was then elected.
A 11-member Boisar local committee was also elected. A branch committee for the Mumbai Nagar Nigam union was also elected.
Addressing the house, central observer Comrade Swapan Mukherjee congratulated the comrades and called for intensifying the efforts to organize adivasi people of the area against the ongoing plunder of resources and assaults on their rights.
Comrade Dhiraj Rathod and newly elected secretary Comrade Shyam Gohil also addressed the Conference, calling for all comrades to strengthen the functioning and activism of the party in Mumbai-Thane.
Puducherry Conference of CPI (ML)
CPI(ML)'s 2nd Puducherry UT State Conference was held at Puducherry, the State Capital of Puducherry UT, on 22nd and 23rd April 2012. The town was decorated with festoons, red flags and hoardings. The central call of the Conference, 'Intensify working class struggles to punish the NR Congress government's anti-people policies and betrayed promises' got a warm response from the working class and the democratic sections of the state.
On 22nd April (Comrade Lenin's birth anniversary and Party Foundation day) evening a big rally was organized, led by Com. S Motilal, State Committee member and Com. P Sankaran, State Committee member. The rally passed through the main thoroughfare of the town and ended with a public meeting.
The public meeting was presided by Com. G Palani, District Secretary, and CCM Comrade Balasundaram, and outgoing State Secretary Com. S Balasubramanian addressed the gathering.
The Conference began on 23rd April, with unfurling of the red flag by senior Party comrade Dhanalakshmi. Leaders and comrades paid homage at the martyrs' column.
CCM Comrade Kalyan Goswami, central observer, delivered the inaugural address and called for consolidation of party and expansion of struggles.
A five member presidium was elected to conduct the proceedings of the conference Com. S Balasubramanian, secretary of the outgoing state committee, submitted the draft report for discussion and approval of the conference.
Comrade Ammaiyappan, District CPI(ML) Secretary Cuddalore, Tamilnadu, Com. Shenbagavalli District Secretary AIPWA, Villupuram Tamilnadu, Immigrants Nepalese (India) Association Puducherry Secretary Bidur Sharma attended the conference.
26 delegates (9 women), 6 observers and 5 invitees attended the conference. The conference elected unopposed a nine member state committee. Com. S. Balasubramanian was elected unanimously as State Secretary.
During the conference preparation, comrades made door to door and shop to shop campaign and fund collection. A week long fund collection was also done in the central Bus stand of Puducherry which evoked much response.
AILC Leaders Address May Day Rally at Darjeeling
Darjeeling witnessed an impressive rally of the CPRM on May Day. Thousands marched with red flags aflutter, with leaders of the CPRM and All India Left Coordination at the forefront. The rally was marked by the large and enthusiastic presence of youth and women.
The rally was presided over by Comrade LN Lama. The rally was the first major public gathering in Darjeeling since the GTA agreement, and the growing unrest against the State Govt's failure to honour the agreement and take it forward was palpable. Speakers at the rally included CPRM Chairman RB Rai, CPRM General Secretary Taramani Rai, CPI(ML) General Secretary Dipankar Bhattacharya, CPM Punjab Secretary Mangat Ram Pasla, Left Coordination Committee Kerala Secretary Comrade Kumaran Kutty, and Lal Nishan Party (Leninist) Secretary Bhimrao Bansode. CPI(ML) PB member Comrade Kartik Pal, as well as CC member Abhijit Mazumdar and West Bengal State Committee member Basudev Bose participated in the Rally.
On 30 April, an AILC Convention was held at Darjeeling, which adopted a political resolution, the full text of which is reproduced below.
Resolution adopted at the AILC Convention (Darjeeling, 30 April 2012)
The convention of fighting Left forces being held in Darjeeling on 30 April 2012 welcomes the growing countrywide unity of Left forces under the banner of the All India Left Coordination (AILC). The AILC which was launched in August 2010 in Delhi through a national convention convened by the CPI(ML)(Liberation), CPM Punjab, Lal Nishan Party (Leninist) of Maharashtra and Left Coordination Committee of Kerala has become stronger with the Communist Party of Revolutionary Marxists (CPRM) joining the AILC as its fifth constituent.
The Darjeeling Convention of AILC supports the Gorkha people's quest for self-determination. Demands for statehood and greater autonomy are being raised in different corners of the country, Telengana, Gorkhaland, the hill districts of Assam being the most prominent ongoing struggles in this context. The AILC supports the aspirations of various identities to secure greater recognition and opportunities in India's federal democratic set-up and calls for the setting up of a Second States Reorganisation Commission for a speedy and sympathetic resolution of the statehood and autonomy demands.
The AILC convention resolves to intensify the battle of the Indian people against growing corruption and corporate loot and calls for enactment of an effective anti-corruption legislation and for reversal of the pro-liberalisation policies to ensure public control over all our precious resources. The AILC extends full support to the student-youth campaign for education and employment rights beginning from May 1 which will culminate in a March to Parliament on August 9. The AILC also calls upon the working people and Left ranks to prepare for sustained struggle against rising prices and unemployment and to secure people's right to basic amenitiesand all-round development.
The Darjeeling Convention of AILC calls for withdrawal of all draconian laws and restoration and guarantee of democracy in every sphere. In particular the convention calls for repeal of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act and the sweeping provisions of the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act, an immediate halt to the Operation Greenhunt, release of all political prisoners and withdrawal of false cases on activists and leaders of people's movements.
This convention condemns the growing attacks on freedom of expression by supporters and leaders of the Trinamool Congress in various parts of West Bengal. The Mamata Banerjee-led regime came to power promising change and democracy, but with every passing day it is betraying the people and belying their hopes. This convention resolves to hold high the banner of democracy and development, stand by the people in distress and wage determined struggle against every assault and every act of betrayal by the new regime.
Co-optex Temporary Employees Win Regularisation
Co-optex is the Tamil Nadu state government undertaking with showrooms selling clothes and garments produced by co-operative weavers' societies. Their retail outlets are spread all over India, and the main functioning union in this sector is led by Comrade S Kumarasamy, All India President of AICCTU. Apart from raising the demands of permanent employees, the Union consistently fought for the permanency of about 220 temporary salesmen, organising dharnas, hunger strikes, and demonstrations. An Industrial dispute was also raised before the Labour Commissioner, Chennai. The Union struggles and negotiations finally resulted in an agreement conceding the demands. It was agreed to regularize 61 employees with some norms like age below 40 years and educational qualification of pass in +2 examinations.
The Union in its 48th General body meeting held at Chennai on 14 April resolved to take up the cause of other workers for permanency who are not meeting the Government's stipulations. The General Body also re-elected Com. S Kumarasamy as its President and Com Antony Raj as its General Secretary. The GB was addressed by state deputy GS of AICCTU Com A S Kumar.
It was also decided to meet the Management on filling up of vacancies, and also appeal to the government to provide cotton sarees and dhoties under the government scheme of free clothing instead of polyester clothing.
Tamilnadu Load Workers' Struggle
More than 500 load workers from all over Tamilnadu gheroed the HQ office of the Civil Supplies Corporation at Chennai on 30 April. The agitation was led by Comrade Govindaraj, General Secretary of the load workers' union. It was addressed by Com. S Kumarasamy, All India President of AICCTU and Com. T Sankarapandian, state GS of AICCTU. After the militant demonstration, a representative team met the senior officials at the office and discussed the demands with them.
About 7000 workers with up to 30 years of service are engaged in loading and unloading work in the civil supplies corporation. Their work plays an important role in implementing the Public Distribution System in the state. But they are being deprived of all legal and statutory provisions. AICCTU demands:
• Regularisation of load workers working for more than 30 years and fixing of wage equal to that of weighing assistant.
• Provident fund contribution to be made to more than 3000 temporary load workers.
• Minimum Wages for loading and un-loading as per Government Order has to be implemented along with DA of Rs.60 to Rs. 70 on a daily basis.
• Uniformity in issuing identity card to all including temporary load workers.
• All load workers should be provided with 1 day of leave for every 6 days of work and an yearly leave of 10 days without any discrimination.
During the course of preparation, cadre meetings were organized in Tirunelveli, Tiruppur, Vilupuram and Tiruvellore districts attended by leaders of the union Comrades Sankarapandian, Govindaraj, Maniraj, P T Rajasekar, Duraipandian, Ganesan and Arumugam along with state AICCTU and CPI(ML) leaders.
Preparation for the struggle forced the State Food Minister to announce PF contribution to 3500 temporary load workers on the floor of the Assembly. It was decided to take the movement further by enrolling more members as well as expanding to more districts.
Strike of of Sirkazhi Conservancy Workers
The conservancy workers of Sirkazhi organized under the banner of Democratic Conservancy Workers' Union went on strike demanding filling up of vacant posts and better wages for contract labourers.
It all first started with the issue of wages to contract labourers doing the same work. The Union raised the wage issue of contract labourers over a long time, and petitions have already been handed over to concerned authorities. The contract labourers are being paid only Rs.100 per day. When a new contract was to start from April 1, Union leaders negotiated with Municipality Officers for increase in wages on March 31. Since there was no headway, all 15 contract workers first went on strike. Then Union met on the 2nd day and decided to join the strike in order to meet the demand. Shocked by the decision, the administration tried to pacify the workers but workers were firm. Due to the strike, the whole Sirkazhi town was full of garbage. Then, Chairman and Commissioner of the Municipality held negotiations with union leaders and assured them of action on their demands. But leaders remained firm and asked for a written commitment. On 2nd April, a letter signed by the Chairman and Commissioner was given, addressed to the President of the union.
Thanks to the struggle, the salary of contract workers has been increased to Rs.150 and 10 more contract labourers have been employed. Unity between permanent and contract workers contributed to the success of this struggle. This struggle was led by Comrade Prabhakaran, in-charge of CPI(ML) party, and other office bearers of the union.
DTC Workers' Unity Centre GBM
The DTC (Delhi Transport Corporation) Workers' Unity Centre held its annual GBM at the VSNL CTO hall on 27 April 2012, emphasizing the demands for regularization of the contract and daily workers of DTC; implementing equal pay for equal work; and intensifying the struggles against the cluster and Annual Maintenance Contract (AMC) policies of the Delhi Government.
The GBM took place at a time when Delhi's public transport, especially DTC, is being privatized, DTC's wprkshops being shut down, running staff and other work being contractualised and outsourced, and DTC being turned into a mere 'monitoring body' by the ruling Congress government. Apart from the Delhi Metro, the city needs at least 25000 buses, but the Delhi Government has not bought any new buses in the past 8 years except for the 3775 buses bought under compulsion during the Commonwealth Games. As a result, only about 400 roadworthy DTC buses ply on Delhi streets. Even the funds made available by the Central Government have been left unspent.
The GBM's document pointed out that due to the rampant policies of privatization:
1. The future of around 20000 employees and their families is uncertain;
2. There are over 14000 young contract workers in DTC, who are not being regularized in spite of assurances being made for several years;
3. In spite of doing identical work, these contract workers are severely exploited and face repression. The stress they undergo is resulting in increased accidents. They are deprived of equal pay and facilities for equal work.
4. Steering duty for drivers must be restricted to 6.30 hours in order to ensure stress-free work and reduce accidents.
5. To promote profits of cluster bus owners, the government is spending Rs 71 per km on them. But DTC has not got any subsidies for the past 20 years. The Government is only giving Rs 19 per km as operational costs to DTC.
6. The Government is paying approximately Rs 15 crore rupees as AMC to various agencies towards maintenance of new low floor, AC, and non-AC buses. In spite of this, most of these buses are in bad shape and fast deteriorating. The AMC must be scrapped without delay, and maintenance brought under to DTC itself.
7. The GBM demanded a high-level committee to investigate the rampant corruption and scams in the purchase and AMC of new buses.
The GBM also noted that DTC employees are the lowest paid government employees, with the least facilities. Their struggle for TA under the 6th Pay Commission has been ongoing for years. The ordinary employee is forced retire after 3-35 years of service without a single promotion, whereas officers are being promoted. The condition of workshop, CED, security and fourth grade employees and drivers is even worse. DTC employees are deprived of the cashless medical schemes, and DTC pension fund is likely to be scrapped in the near future.
The GBM noted the good initiatives taken by the Unity Centre in recent times, and resolved to hold a Public Hearing on privatization policies and DTC's future in September 2012.
More than half the 71 delegates at the GBM were young workers – a result of the consistent campaign among new and contractualised employees.
CPI(ML) Delhi State Secretary Sanjay Sharma, AICCTU Delhi President VKS Gautam, RYA leader Aslam, MTNL leader Satbir Singh, and AICCTU VP Mathura Paswan addressed the GBM. The GBM elected 19 office-bearers, a 33-member executive and a 67-member Council, with Comrade Shankaran as General Secretary and Comrade Rajesh Kumar as President.
May Day was observed across the country by the AICCTU – detailed reports from the states and sectors will be carried in the forthcoming issue.