Two Days’ Countrywide General Strike on January 8-9, 2019

Hemalata

THE joint national convention of trade unions, held in Mavlankar Hall in New Delhi on September 28, 2018 gave a clarion call to the entire working class of the country to join the two days’ country wide general strike on January 8-9, 2019 against the anti- worker, anti-people and anti-national policies being pursued by the BJP government at the centre led by Prime Minister Modi.

The national convention was called by 10 central trade unions which have been consistently fighting the neoliberal policies jointly since 2009. It is to be recalled that the BMS, guided by the Sangh Parivar along with the ruling BJP, abandoned the joint trade union movement after the BJP came to power, arguing that the Modi government was ‘positive’ to the demands of the trade unions. The joint declaration which outlined concrete campaign programmes culminating in the two days’ strike, placed by                         G Sanjeeva Reddy, president of INTUC, was unanimously adopted by the convention amidst thunderous slogans.

More than thousand national and state level leaders of the various unions affiliated to the central trade unions – INTUC, AITUC, HMS, CITU, AIUTUC, TUCC, SEWA, AICCTU, LPF and UTUC – and independent national federations of workers and employees, attended the convention from all over the country. They represented all sectors, industrial, services and agriculture, public and private, organised and the unorganised sector. The leaders of organisations of central and state government employees and teachers, postal, defence, railway, insurance, bank and telecom employees participated in the convention. National and state leaders of trade unions of oil, coal, electricity, medical and sales representatives, organised and unorganised segments of road transport, domestic and home based workers were also present. The employees in the health and education sectors and the scheme workers were also represented by their leaders.

The convention expressed its anger at the arrogant negligence of the demands unanimously raised by the entire trade union movement of the country, including the BMS though it has now withdrawn from joint struggle, obviously under pressure from its parent body, the RSS. It strongly castigated the BJP led government for blatantly pursuing policies to serve their corporate masters, both domestic and foreign. Despite stiff opposition from the workers and their trade unions, the BJP government led by Prime Minister Modi was going ahead with its neoliberal agenda totally unconcerned about their disastrous impact on the people, their livelihoods and on the environment.

The convention termed the BJP government as anti-worker, anti-people and anti- national and called upon, not only the working class, but the entire people, to ensure its decisive defeat in the ensuing elections so the struggle for pro-people, pro-worker policies can be heightened.

Speaking in support of the declaration, Tapan Sen, general secretary, CITU, said that the BJP government, which came to power with the slogan of ‘sab ka vikas’ is implementing policies that are causing ‘vinas’ of toiling people, ‘vinas’ of our indigenous manufacturing, and of our self reliant economy. While supporting the need to defeat the BJP led Modi government in the elections, he emphasised the need to strengthen united struggles aimed at the reversal of the anti-worker, anti-national policies. He urged upon all the participants to start preparations for the strike immediately after going back and carry the message of the convention to the grassroots level.

Amarjeet Kaur, general secretary, AITUC, Harbhajan Singh Sidhu,  general secretary of HMS, Satyavan from AIUTUC, GR Shivshankar from TUCC, Sonial George from SEWA, Rajeev Dimri from AICCTU, Pechi Muthu from LPF and Ashok Ghosh from UTUC addressed the convention and supported the declaration.

The convention was presided by Ashok Singh (INTUC), Ramendra Kumar (AITUC), SN Pathak (HMS), Hemalata (CITU), RK Sharma (AIUTUC), Praveer Banerjee (TUCC), Lata Singh (SEWA), Santosh Rai (AICCTU), K Natarajan (LPF) and Shatrujeet Singh (UTUC).

Excerpts from the Declaration adopted in the joint national convention:

The National Convention of Workers jointly called by the 10 central trade unions, in association with all independent national federations of workers and employees, of both industrial and services sectors, viz. banks, insurance, central government and state government employees, defence production employees, telecom employees etc expresses serious concern over the deteriorating situation in the national economy due to the pro-corporate, anti-national and anti-people policies pursued by the central government, grievously impacting the livelihood of the working people across the country.

The convention notes with utter dismay that the government has been continuing to arrogantly ignore the 12 point charter of demands. Despite numerous nationwide joint strike actions the most prominent being those on September 2, 2015 and September 2, 2016 participated by crores of workers, the ruling regime at the centre has increased its onslaught on the rights and livelihood of the working people of the country.

‘The central government not only refused to respond to the just and genuine demands of the organised agitation of the working class, but has been increasing its aggression on the rights of workers, employees and trade unions. Bipartism and tripartism are being undermined. The government is dragging its feet on wage negotiations of public sector. Four subcommittees were formed by the government to address issues raised by central government employees such as scrapping of New Pension Scheme, review of the minimum wage and fitment formula, restoration of allowances and allowing option no 1 as one of the pension fitment formula. But nothing has been done. This National Convention extends full support to the struggles of the central government employees’ organisations including the defence and railways and upholds all their demands.

This National Convention unanimously condemns in strongest terms the conspiratorial and authoritarian attack of the present government to deprive the biggest central trade union in the country, the INTUC from all representation in the tripartite and bipartite fora and committees, including the international forum. This is nothing but a severe and heinous onslaught on the rights of the entire trade union movement. It will be unitedly fought back.

Unemployment situation is getting aggravated with employment generation practically turning negative even in the most labour intensive sectors. The forecast of huge job losses in the IT sector is adding fuel to the fire. 3 percent compulsory annual surrender of regular posts in government establishments is continuing. Estimates by independent surveys and those sponsored by employers’ organisations reveal loss of 70 lakh jobs with closure of 2.34 lakh small factories in the first few months of demonetisation. The livelihood of another six crore people in informal economy were also affected.

Price rise of petroleum products and essential commodities is mounting pressure on daily life of people. GST has further impounded the hardship. Even lifesaving medicines have been subjected to hefty GST. Drastic cut in government expenditure, on social sector and welfare, has worsened conditions particularly for the workers in the unorganised sector. The government has introduced Fixed Term Employment through the back door for the establishment of modern labour slavery system. It has brought pro-employer changes in the Apprentices Act.

The anti-labour authoritarian character of the government is all the more evident in its refusal to implement even the consensus recommendation of successive Indian Labour Conferences in respect of equal pay and benefits for equal work for the contract workers, formulation of minimum wage on the norms agreed by the 15th ILC and Supreme Court judgment, workers’ status to scheme workers etc. The present government even refuses to implement the Supreme Court judgment on equal wage and benefits for equal work and on EPS 1995 on contribution and calculation of pension on actual pay and dearness allowance.

Despite opposition of all the trade unions in the country irrespective of affiliations, the government has been aggressively pushing through its programme of pro-employer and utterly anti-worker labour law reforms. It has decided to amalgamate 44 hard earned central labour laws into four labour codes to facilitate employers to ‘hire and fire’ in the name of ‘Ease of Doing Business’. The latest is the ‘Code on Social Security’ which dismantles and demolishes 15 existing social security Acts, abolishes welfare related cess, usurps the social security fund contributed by the workers amounting to more than Rs 24 lakh crore and makes it available for speculation in the share market. The proposed code on Occupational Safety and Health is very dangerous.

Privatisation of all strategic PSUs including defence production, public sector banks, insurance companies, railways, public road transport, oil, power, coal etc through disinvestment, strategic sale, outsourcing in favour of private sector, and 100 percent FDI in many vital and strategic sectors is increasing. Defence sector privatisation is designed to destroy our manufacturing capability and research initiatives developed over the last six and half decades. More than 50 percent products including weapons and critical equipment so long being produced by the ordinance establishments are being outsourced. The government is determined to close down five ordinance factories manufacturing items used by our soldiers and officers.

Complete privatisation of railways, step by step is going on. Operating private trains on the existing tracks built by Railways is being permitted. Free access to railway yards, sheds and workshops for maintenance of private coaches, wagons and engines etc is being offered to private operators. Already 23 railway stations, all in metro cities, have been shortlisted for privatisation. More than 600 railway stations along with land around them have been identified for development by private players. A Railway Development Authority has been created under which railway fare and goods freight is poised to be hiked for the benefit of the private profiteers.

The central government intends to get the Motor Vehicle (Amendment) Bill passed to allow wholesale privatisation of the road transport sector.

Public sector banks are under attack with the ultimate target of privatisation to extend undue favours to the same private crooks whose loan default has put the banking sector in severe difficulties. Even after Vijay Mallya, Nirav Modi and Mehul Choksi have run away with people’s money. The government has come out with the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, which is aimed at facilitating the corporate defaulters in the name of ‘resolution process of insolvency’. Banks will suffer ‘hair cuts’ and will get back only a small portion of the due loan amount.

The exposure of various scams by the BJP led government shows the real face of the ruling clique. Rafale deal is the biggest scam being unearthed.

The National Convention extends full solidarity to the fighting farmers, the struggle of adivasis for effective implementation of the Forest Rights Act.

This National Convention records its strong denunciation against the communal and divisive machinations being carried on with the active patronage of the government machinery. The BJP governments are using draconian UAPA, NSA as well as agencies like CBI, NIA, IT to harass and suppress dissenting opinions. It is disrupting the unity of workers and toiling people so vital to carry forward the ongoing struggles based on the 12 point charter of demands. Working class must raise its strong voice of protest.

This anti-people and anti-national policy regime must be defeated squarely to force pro-people changes in policies, and for that the united platform of working class must heighten its struggles further.

The National Convention of workers therefore adopts the following programmes:

• State, district and industry/sector level joint conventions to be held during October/November 2018
• Joint industry level gate meetings, rallies etc during November/December 2018
• Submission of strike notice jointly with demonstrations during December 17-22, 2018
• Two days country wide general strike on January 8-9, 2019

The National Convention calls upon working people across the sectors and throughout the country irrespective of affiliations to make the above programme a total success.

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