Factory workers, street vendors, DTC workers, construction workers, domestic workers, health and sanitation workers were among those who, under the banner of the AICCTU, held a powerful Dharna at Jantar Mantar on 3 September 2014 to protest a 100 days of the Modi Government’s betrayal of its promises to the people.
Protesters raised slogans demanding to know why the promise of ‘acche din’ has turned into the reality of ‘bure din’, and why Modi Sarkar was behaving like UPA-III.
At the dharna, AICCTU National Secretary Rajiv Dimri spoke of how Modi’s ‘acche din’ promise has turned sour, especially for workers, who are now witnessing swift roll-back of their rights and unabated price hike.
All India Agricultural Labour Association (AIALA) National General Secretary Dhirendra Jha addressed the protesting workers and said, “If good days have come, it is for Ambanis, Adanis, Tatas and Mittals - not the common people of this country.”
Comrade Dhirendra said that Modi is making gifts of public sector assets to the corporations, preparing to turn the MNREGA from an enforceable law into a scheme, and undoing environmental provisions to allow corporate grab of forests and land.
AICCTU Delhi State Secretary Santosh Rai said, “Modi, the self-proclaimed ‘mazdoor number one’, has gone for an all out attack on rights of working class. In these first three months of ‘good governance’ offered, there is a plethora of proposals to amend labour laws in favour of corporate capital. These amendments would push much of the existing work force out of the purview of labour laws like Factory Act, ID Act, CLARA, Trade Union Act. The right to unionise and attain recognition of their union is going to be taken away. Women workers would be susceptible to more exploitation at the work place, including sexual harassment due to amendments in Factory Act.”
V.K.S Gautam, President of Delhi State Unit of AICCTU spoke of the situation of workers in Delhi.
CPIML Politburo member Prabhat Kumar and Delhi State Secretary Sanjay Sharma also addressed the protesters. Others who addressed included AICCTU leaders Saurabh Naruka, Ardhendu Roy, Munna Yadav, Ajay Kumar, Surender Panchal, Virender Kumar, Satvir Shramik, Jagnarayan, Omprakash, Shankaran, Balmiki Jha, Rajesh Kumar, Shakuntala, Jan Sangharsh Morcha Narela’s President Ramkumar Bauddh, Revolutionary Youth Association (RYA) vice-president Aslam Khan, Mahesh Upadhyay and many other others. The meeting was conducted by AICCTU Delhi Vice President Mathura Paswan.
A National Convention of Workers was held on 15TH September 2014 at New Delhi, under the banner of joint platform of all the Central Trade Unions of the country. The Convention was held in protest against the policies of Liberalization, Privatization and Globalization and the all-out attack on trade union/working class rights by the Modi government and the Rajasthan government. The Convention rallied around the ten-point charter of demands of entire trade union movement calling for concrete action against price-rise and unemployment, ensuring minimum wages for all of not less than Rs. 15000 per month, halting mass scale unlawful contractualization, for strict implementation of labour laws, universal social security benefits and pension for all including the unorganized sector workers etc. and compulsory registration of Trade Unions within 45 days and ratification of ILO Conventions 87 and 98.
The joint platform of all Central Trade Unions includes AICCTU, BMS, INTUC, AITUC, HMS, CITU, AIUTUC, TUCC, SEWA, UTUC and LPF. The convention was participated in by independent national federations/organizations from all the sectors and service establishments including Bank, Insurance, Defence, Railways, Central/State Govt. Employees etc.
The Convention was addressed on behalf of AICCTU by the General Secretary, Swapan Mukherjee. National Secretary, Santosh Roy was member of Presidium on behalf of AICCTU. The convention was addressed by, among others, Gurudas Das Gupta GS of AITUC, Tapan Sen GS of CITU, Harbhajan Singh Siddhu GS of HMS, Vrijesh Uppadhyay GS of BMS and G. Sanjeeva Reddy President of INTUC.
The declaration adopted by the Convention called upon the working masses to hold State level joint conventions during September-October; wherever possible initiative may be taken to hold district-level and industry-level joint conventions; and National Protest Day on 5 December 2014 through massive joint demonstration in all state capitals and at Delhi Joint demonstration of workers from the neighbouring states.
The National Convention called upon the trade unions and working people irrespective of affiliations to unite and make the above programmes a massive success paving way for countrywide united struggle to resist the onslaught on the life and livelihood of working people throughout the country.
AICCTU led Hospital Assistants of central government run hospital, NIMHANS, were on a dharna in front of the office of the Director demanding withdrawal of illegal transfers of 21 contract workers and cancellation of the contract of Swachata Corporation. The administration and the contractor have violated Sec. 33 (a) of ID Act, 1947 that prohibits any change or alteration of service conditions prejudicial to the interests of workers during the pendency of an industrial dispute before the conciliation officer or any other competent legal authority. The transfer of 21 workers, including the union General Secretary Basavaraj, Organising Secretary Guru Datt, Vice President Pillamma, Joint Secretary Pramila and ECM Narayan were resorted to by the NIMHANS in spite of clear advise by the conciliation officer on the contrary. The government run hospital authorities refused to follow the advise of another competent dept authorised by the same central govt.
NIMHANS hospital does not have a proper qualified HR officials in spite of employing more than 4000 employees of various categories. The responsible officials do not even know the legal position that ultimately, Principal Employer, in this case, NIMHANS is responsible for the wrongs of the contractor.
It was unfortunate that the Director and other responsible officials of one of the reputed hospitals in the country were completely careless about the welfare of its own employees. They even refused to meet union leaders who rushed to resolve the issues amicably.
Finally, forced by the workers struggle and instructions from the conciliation officer, the administration and the contractor temporarily withdrew the transfers on the same day. Still, transferred workers were not allowed to work for a day in their previous place of work. Second day, all but one was allowed to work in the previous department. It needed written letter from the labour department to reinstate all workers in their previous place. The central government owned hospital which is supposed to be a model employer is violating laws and resorting to unfair labour practices prohibited by the ID Act. The government run institution, NIMHANS, in addition to illegal, victimised transfers of contract workers for being active in the trade union, does not have a transfer policy even. Workers were transferred because they questioned the illegal nature of contractor who has not renewed the license and who has employed hundreds of workers more than the sanctioned strength. AICCTU leaders Comrades Balan, Shankar and Appanna led the demonstrators.
Uttarakhand ASHA health workers’ union, affiliated to AICCTU, took out a state level Jawab do, Hisab do (Settle Accounts, Provide Answers) rally. The rally displaying a sea of red flags and banners, was led by Union President Com. Kamla Kunjwal and General Secretary Com. Kailash Pandey. The rally reverberated with slogans of “Sthayi naukri aur vetanman lekar rahenge”, “Vaada khilafi nahi chalegi”, “Shram kanoonon ka ullanghan band karo” and other slogans. As the rally was about to take off from Kalumal Dharmashala at 11 am, the C.O. City and City kotwal stopped the rally with the police force and said that it will not be allowed to proceed as prior permission had not been taken. AICCTU leaders and ASHA activists protested and vowed to take out the rally come what may. After SDM Sadar Mohan Singh Barniya and SP City Ajay Singh gave the assurance of talks between ASHA representatives and top officials, they agreed to hold the protest at the Secretariat. The main speaker at the meeting, AICCTU national vice president Raja Bahuguna said that after the formation of Uttarakhand State, the condition of workers, particularly working women, has become very bad. He said that the Congress and BJP both are equally guilty of neglecting the working class and Uttarakhand State has become a synonym for neglect and oppression of workers with mafia forces ruling the roost. ASHA workers, working in the most difficult conditions, are the backbone of the health sector but their just demands are totally neglected. After the historic national strike of January 20-21, the government of India was forced to give ASHA workers the status of working class. Therefore the government must ensure their permanent appointment and wage scales. Com. Bahuguna said that ever since Modi came to power, prices have skyrocketed and oppression of workers has increased manyfold. The working class must unite and fight to give a fitting reply to communal corporate fascist forces.
Union State President Kamla Kunjwal said that every government which ruled the new Uttarakhand state has broken its promises to ASHA. The Khanduri govt had promised an incentive of Rs 5000 to ASHA workers and subsequent govts had twice announced bonuses but all proved to be empty promises. She said that the announcement to give arrears on Sept 13 is a victory for us.
Union general secretary Com. Kailash Pandey said that if Sikkim, W Bengal and Jharkhand can give minimum wages to ASHA workers then why not Uttarakhand, which was formed on the strength of women workers’ sacrifices. He demanded insurance of 20 lakhs for the ASHA workers, free treatment in govt hospitals, issue of health cards, ASHA rest houses to be built in every hospital, and said the Union would strongly oppose the PPP model of hospitals.
Hundreds of ASHA workers from Nainital district, Udham Singh Nagar, Champawat, Bageshwar, Almora, Pithoragarh, and Garhwal participated in the rally. A delegation of Uttarakhand ASHA health workers’ union met the upper health secretary B.R. Arya who informed them that the govt has issued directives for Rs 5000 per year to ASHA workers. He promised to put the demands of ASHA for arrears from 2011 before the CM and assured them that this demand would also be met. He also agreed to the previously agreed Diwali bonus to be deposited in the ASHA workers’ accounts. He also promised positive action soon on the demand for minimum wages. He assured the representatives that after 28 Sep the health secretary, health director, and NRHM director would meet AICCTU and ASHA leaders and discuss all their demands.
The meeting unanimously passed the resolution that until the demands were met, ASHA workers would work wearing black bands, and if the demands were not met within 15 days, the effigy of the Chief Minister would be burnt.
22 contract sanitation workers of Raja Harishchandra Hospital, run by Delhi Govt. retrenched illegally by the contractor. They were working there for 5-7 years or more. They and their families are protesting since 8 Aug 2014, sitting in front of the Hospital on an indefinite protest.
They, organised under the banner All India General Kamgar Union, affiliated to AICCTU, had protested on same reasons last year too, but after few weeks of struggle they were all reinstated by the contractor. That was time when elections were near. This year the contractor is adament on not taking them back, he also sometimes reminds workers their last year’s ‘mistake’ of fighting for their job security. Now we have a ‘stable’ BJP govt. in centre to boost contractor’s confidence to the extent that he is even ignoring advice, though a feeble one, of the hospital administrator for taking them back.
The Delhi State Commission for Sanitation (Safai) Workers had given a letter to the workers’ Union that no sanitation workers will be retrenched from any hospital in Delhi even if there is a change in contractor. But this direction of a statutory body like the Commission is proving futile in face of the prevailing nexus of the contract workers mafia with hospital administration and Delhi Govt.’s Health Deptt. ! They are adament on teaching lessons to the workers who dare to raise their voice for rights and secure livelihood.
Local AICCTU organiser and CPIML leader Surender Panchal has met the LG of Delhi along with state leadership of AICCTU to submit a memorandum on behalf of the these workers. Though received positive assurances, though not in writing, they later proved to be false promises.
This is not the story of a single govt. hospital in National Capital. Workers in many hospitals had to protest repeated attacks on their livelihood, thanks to draconian and anti-worker CLARA and governmental policy of implementing so called ‘reforms’. Recently contract sanitation workers in Ambedkar Hospital held out a protest after sudden retrenchments, though it proved to be one of the unsuccessful attempts at saving their livelihoods. Workers in central govt. hospitals like Sufdarjang Hospital too feel very insecure and terrified in front of contractors highhandedness and repressive tactics. The labour laws are never implemented in favour of the workers by the government and administration. In LRS TB Hospital near Mehrauli almost all contract workers who were employed there for years were retrenched by the hospital administration and contract as soon as they heard of rumours that the contract workers are unionising themselves. Many of those were working in that hospital for decades, first as casual workers and then they were forcibly moved to the hands of the some contractor. Workers and their families are continuing their protests in Narela.
Sanitation workers of BBMP organised under the banner of Guttige Powarakarmikara Sangha (BBMP Contract Workers Union affiliated to AICCTU) went on strike on 27-29 Aug. 2014 demanding VDA Rs. 2204 and Government declared minimum wages and other benefits, including timely disbursal of wages.
In a subsequent meeting with Labour Minister and Labour Commissioner, the Labour Minister assured he will immediately talk to the BBMP Commissioner to release the pending wages to all contract workers and will arrange a meeting with Labour Secretary, BBMP Commissioner and other concerned officials with AICCTU leaders for releasing VDA as demanded by the union.
The striking workers held out a march to the residence of Labour Minister on 27th.
Hundreds of Sanitation workers of Sunkadkatte and Anjananagara wards of Bangalore city led by AICCTU took part in this strike action.
AICCTU leaders Com. Clifton, Maitreyi, Nirmala, Shankar and AICCTU Vice President and Karnataka State President, Comrade Balan addressed the workers.