The workers representatives had given a call for All India General Strike on 2nd September in their National Convention on 26th May, 2015, as a protest against anti workers policy of the Govt. The Central Govt. constituted Group of Ministers to discuss the demands with the Central Trade Unions. After two rounds of discussion between the Group of Ministers and the central trade unions on the 12-point charter of demands of the trade unions held on 26th and 27th August 2015, the GoM headed by Finance Minister, Shri Arun Jaitley made an appeal in the meeting which was later repeated through the press release urging upon the trade unions to reconsider the call for countrywide general strike on 2nd September 2015 claiming that the Govt. is taking appropriate steps to consider most of the demands.
The CTUs unfortunately do not find the discussion fruitful as the Govt. did not offer any tangible solution to the demands and have, therefore decided to continue with the protest strike.
To put the facts straight, the joint platform of central trade unions have been pursuing with successive governments at the centre with their basic demands since 2009 and observed three rounds of countrywide general strike since 2010, the last being for two days in February 2013. In the two rounds of meeting between the CTUOs and the Group of Ministers, nothing transpired in concrete terms except vague statements by the ministers on steps to be taken or being taken on some of the issues.
The Govt’s press release mentioned, inter alia, certain issues in support of their unfounded claim.
1. The Govt. stated claim about “appropriate legislation for making formula based minimum wages mandatory and applicable” for all is not correct. But despite concrete pointers made by the trade unions that such a formula should be what has already been unanimously decided by the 15th Indian Labour Conference and subsequent add on of 25% by the Supreme Court, the Ministers did not give any concrete commitment on the same. The said formulae had also been the consensus recommendation of 44th Indian Labour Conference (2012) and again reiterated by 46th ILC in 2015. In fact said formulae makes minimum wage around Rs. 20000/- and the Trade Unions are demanding only ‘not less than Rs 15,000/’. The Govt. only suggested floor wage of Rs.7100 per month (not based on concept of minimum wage) which will be implemented after consultation with other stakeholders.
2. On contract workers issues, the Govt. assured that they will be paid guaranteed minimum wages. This is to create deliberate confusion. Existing laws of the land lawfully ensure payment of minimum wages to contract workers. The trade unions demanded same wages and other benefits as given to regular workers in the concerned industry/establishment to be paid to contract workers as provided in the existing Rules under the Contract Labour Act. The govt. did not even agree to this. The stand of the govt. is a climb down on the existing statutory provisions.
3. The steps taken by the Govt. on Labour Law amendments, are meticulously designed to throw out more than 70% of the workers on industries and other establishments from the purview and coverage of almost all basic labour laws and also to eliminate almost all components/provisions of rights and protections of the workers, empowering the employers with right to ‘hire and fire’. This is being supplemented by more aggressive steps already taken by a good number of state governments to amend the labour laws in the similar lines as per directives from the PMO to which the President has already given assent on recommendations of the Central Govt. The Govt. stated only that they will hold tripartite consultations but did not agree that only after consensus these amendments will be passed, The trade unions will not accept such machinations designed to impose conditions of virtual slavery on the working people to favour the employers.
4. The Govt. refused to concede to the demand for recognizing the Scheme workers, viz., Anganwadi, Mid-day meal, ASHA, Para-teachers and others as “worker” with attendant rights of statutory minimum wages and other benefits in gross violation of the unanimous recommendation of the 45th Indian Labour Conference(2013) and reiterated by 46th ILC (2015). These workers and all the schemes have been put to further crisis owing to drastic cut in budgetary allocations for these schemes.
5. On Bonus issue, the unanimous demands of the trade unions has been ignored. The Trade unions demanded for removal of all ceilings both on payment and calculations since there is no ceiling on profit. The trade unions demand for removal of ceilings on payment of gratuity and enhancement of formula for calculation has also been ignored.
6. On price rise situation, the claim of the Govt. that it has gone down does not match with ground reality in respect of commodities for daily necessities of the common people. The demands of the trade unions for putting a ban on speculation/forward trading in essential commodities and services along with universalisation of public distribution system throughout the country have been totally ignored.
7. No concrete measures have been spelt out by the govt. for employment generation.
8. On stoppage of disinvestment in public sector and FDI in strategic sector, response of the Govt. was total denial. Rather those policies are being pursued more aggressively.
Therefore, there is no absolute ground or reason for reconsidering the decision of the Central Trade Unions for countrywide general strike on 2nd September 2015.
The Central Trade Unions appeal to all working people irrespective of affiliations to make the call for countrywide general strike against the anti-worker, anti-people policies of Govt. a massive success.
The Central Trade Unions also appeal to BMS to not oppose the strike.
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