News Report on the 48th Annual Conference of Chennai Corporation Red Flag Union – CITU
Chennai Corporation Red Flag Union – CITU held its 48th year conference in Chennai on September 24, 2016. The conference was attended by union delegates representing members from various zones of Chennai Corporation and representatives of fraternal unions of CITU. The leaders shared reports of various actions in the last 3 years and have identified several focus areas including developing women coordination committee at zonal levels, creating new local units in divisions where there is no existing membership, sectoral committees, oppose privatization and plans for conducting classes on trade unionism among the members.
Addressing the delegation, Comrade Sundarrajan, President of the Red Flag Union discussed the lengthy process of contractualization that has been set in place due to the labour contracting and privatization of sanitation services in Tamil Nadu. He said that there were contract workers in Corporation even before 1991 when the contract workers were known as consolidated pay workers and were in the employment of the Corporation. While the union has been fighting continuously to ensure that these workers are made permanent, he said that since 1991, the forms of contractualization has changed where these workers are not being even placed in muster rolls of the Corporation. He said that sourcing of labour and privatization of sanitation services has meant that long term permanent employment prospects of the workers has become difficult. He placed the ongoing labour reforms by Central Government in the context of the assault on the sanitation workers and the need to fight the issue both locally and in larger arena.
SK Mahendran, former MLA, in his inaugural address pointed to the struggles and service of the union in securing better working conditions. Highlighting these struggles he cited the case when in 2003, the corporation council resolved to not formalize the employment of contract workers, the union began to agitate against this resolution. When the commissioners and Mayor declined to withdraw the resolution, the sanitation workers gheraoed the officials until the resolution was withdrawn. He further added that while this paved the way for some of the workers to obtain permanent jobs, the government is now undermining the spirit of this struggle by employing workers under various schemes like Swarna Jayanthi Scheme and not providing them tenure permanence, even though they do the same work as regular sanitation workers. He also added that it is important that the workers also struggle against the privatization of education, and communal activities like anti cow slaughter vigilantism.
Presenting the report on the various activities by the Red Flag Union, General Secretary Com. Srinivasulu highlighted various issues in ensuring workers participation in the union activities. Specifically, he referred to issues of converting the workers’ understanding from immediate needs arising from their own working condition to the political conditions that frame the economy and keep the workers exploited. He asked the local union leaders to go beyond just distributing notices to their workers on various programs and have local community sessions around issues brought out in CITU’s daily Theekathir. He also presented issues on each zone where he discussed specific issues confronting the particular zone which included union strength, leadership issues and corporation attitude.
Various zonal level leaders presented their viewpoints on the issues both to the local unit and also praised the functioning of the union. All union leaders were presented with a booklet containing detailed information about various programs and actions by the Union, participation in larger issues, the budget and expenses of the union, memberships at various zones over last three years.