30th August 2016
The Group of Ministers headed by the Union Finance Minister Shri Arun Jaitley, and comprising Labour Minister, Petroleum Minister and Power Minister held a Press Conference today on 30th August 2016 to tell the nation that the Govt had accepted major demands of the trade unions and hence they should not go in for strike on 2nd September 2016. CITU considers the statement of the Govt nothing but a mockery meted out to workers.
The Statement of the Finance Minister that the Govt has accepted the recommendation of the Minimum Wage Advisory Committee is totally untrue. The Minimum Wage Advisory Committee met on 30th August 2016 at 3 pm and ended inconclusive while all the workers’ representatives reiterated their demand of Rs 18000/-. Such mis-statement by Govt is a deliberate ploy to mislead and confuse the workers before the strike.
Govt’s offer of a floor level minimum wage of Rs 350/- per day, i.e., Rs 9100/- per month (26 days) is cruel joke by the Govt making a posture of accepting the demands of workers. Trade unions reject such a mockery in the name of offer with the contempt it deserves.
Releasing previous year’s bonus for the central govt employees is not something about Govt’s magnanimity. Govt did so to implement the enhanced ceiling as per the Payment of Bonus Act for them, which they should have done much earlier. Now they have released in order to deceptively pose that the Govt has been considering so many things. So far as the court cases on implementation of Payment of Bonus Act is concerned, it is the responsibility of the central govt to defend and implement the Act passed by Parliament, for which they cannot claim any special credit. But this NDA Govt should better note that it is the BJP Govt in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan etc have withheld implementation of the Bonus Act for the year 2014-15 on their own citing the High Court Orders in Kerala and Karnataka which were not binding on them. That makes the real intention clear.
Govt also stated that they will issue advisory to state governments to ensure registration of trade unions within 45 days. Advisory is not having binding impact. What is required is to make statutory arrangement. But in their proposals on labour reforms, Govt has already put so many conditions that would make registering trade union virtually impossible.
On being asked in the press conference about the right to minimum wages for the central Govt Scheme workers like Anganwadi, Mid-day-meal, ASHA etc , The Finance Minister brushed the questioner aside saying that scheme workers are all volunteers and not workers. He must recall that the 46th Indian Labour Conference held during NDA regime has unanimously reiterated the recommendation of the previous ILC that the Scheme workers should be recognized as workers with right to minimum wages and attendant benefits.
The Minister further stated that the scheme workers will be covered by the Social Security benefits for which a committee will be constituted. Almost same statement was uttered by him one year before on 26-27 August 2015, prior to previous general strike. Nothing has been done yet. Rather ESIC has offered extremely partial ESI benefit to Anganwadi and mid-day-meal workers on payment of Rs 250/- per month which amounts to 8.33% of the paltry earning of the anganwadi workers, 16% of the anganwadi helpers and 25% of the mid-day-meal workers; whereas the workers covered by ESIC Act are to contribute 1.75% of their wage for full ESI benefit. Such proposal is dubiously designed to deny them the social security benefit and this deceptive game is going on.
In reality, Govt’s announcement in the press conference on the charter of demands of the workers is nothing but a hoax and must be rejected outright. This is game to confuse and mislead people just on the eve of strike. Such deceptive and dubious ploy of the Govt must be combated through making the 2nd September 2016 a massive success.
27th August 2016
Dear Shri Bandaru Dattatreya ji,
This refers to your D.O No. 21(24)/2016-IR dated Nil requesting reconsideration of the proposed strike call on 2nd September 2016 given jointly by the Central Trade Unions in view of the “proactive steps undertaken by the Government to address the charter of demands raised by the Central Trade Unions”. Your letter has been received by us on 26thAugust 2016 through e-mail.
At the outset, we are constrained to mention that we find no tangible ‘proactive steps’ in the details furnished by you, either in your letter or in the enclosed updated status of action taken, in favour of the workers so far as the 12 point charter of demands of the Central Trade Unions is concerned. In fact the ‘updated status’ enclosed with your letter is almost the same as that you circulated exactly one year ago, in the joint meeting with the central trade unions held on 26th and 27th August, on the eve of the general strike in 2015.
But the government has definitely taken several proactive steps, totally ignoring the opposition of the entire trade union movement and totally against the interests of the workers, during this period. To mention just a few: 1) Introduction of Fixed Term Employment in apparel manufacturing sector through an executive order, 2) Increase the permissible limit of overtime work from 50 hours per quarter to 125 hours through an amendment to the Factories Act, 3) Divert workers’ money in the EPF for investment in the share market, 4) Attempts to appropriate huge amounts of workers’ money in the EPF for other purposes unrelated to them, 5) Introduce the Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Bill with atrocious provisions attacking the road transport workers en masse. All these ‘proactive’ initiatives are against the basic interests of the workers and their rights. All the central trade unions have vociferously opposed these measures.
Your argument that ‘the running theme of the Labour Reforms is to ensure employment security, wage security and social security to all workers’ is totally contrary to reality and the experience of the workers. In fact, the focus of the so called ‘labour reforms’ has been to push the overwhelming majority of workers in the organised sector out of the purview of all basic labour laws including those providing social security. They empower employers to ‘hire and fire’ at their whims, legitimise contractorisation of regular jobs and deployment of apprentices/ trainees etc on payment of a small fraction of minimum wages. It is crystal clear to anybody objectively examining the entire ‘Labour reforms’ programme that it is designed to impose conditions of slavery on the workers. The conditions of even the miniscule proportion of workers in the organised sector who are at present entitle to a few benefits will become insecure, in terms of their employment, wages, social security etc. No trade union worth its salt can mortgage the interests of the workers by accepting such retrograde measures lying down.
Moreover, we cannot accept the claim that all your moves on labour law reforms are the outcome of tripartite consultations. It is a matter of record that all the central trade unions, repeat all, have unanimously opposed many of your proposals of labour-law-reforms and opinions of the trade unions have been totally ignored undermining the spirit of tripartism. Ignoring labour’s opinion on the measures by which labour will be affected most cannot be construed as consultation, which we urge upon you to appreciate.
We request you to verify your claim that ‘labour inspection system through the Shram Suvidha Portal has improved efficiency and transparency and expanded coverage’ with facts. Your own statement that only 12 lakh units have been issued Labour Identification Number (LIN) itself contradicts and refutes your claim. This is only an insignificant percentage of the total number of establishments in the country. While the data of establishments and workers captured by your Shram Suvidha Portal itself is insignificant compared to the total, routing inspection through this portal on the basis of 10% randomised selection is nothing but an attempt to minimise inspection and allow more freedom to employers to violate labour laws with impunity. It is strange, to say the minimum, to claim this as expanding coverage. To give a few examples: The total number of subscribers to EPF is only 3.71 crore while as per gross estimate another 3 crore workers in the organised sector itself, mostly contract workers are not covered by EPF, despite being legally eligible. ESI coverage is even less at 2.03 crore despite the fact that all establishments employing 10 or more are entitled to be covered by ESI while it is 20 in the case of EPF. These are just two examples of the horrible state of affairs related to implementation of labour laws and social security coverage. The basic purpose of the ongoing ‘labour reforms’ is to legalise and legitimise violations to ensure ‘ease of doing business’. You will kindly appreciate that no trade union worth its salt can sell out the interests of the workers by accepting this situation lying down.
Claims are being made to extend coverage of social security schemes like EPF and ESI to scheme workers since last more than a year. But what has actually happened till date? For example, ESIC proposed to cover the scheme workers viz., anganwadi and mid-day-meal workers to provide limited benefit on payment of Rs250/- per month which means 8.33% of the paltry honorarium of anganwadi workers, 16% for the helpers and 25% for the mid-day-meal workers. Whereas for other workers covered under ESI Act, the contribution is only 1.75% of their monthly wages for full ESI benefits. Can the anganwadis and other scheme workers afford such high burden of contribution out of their paltry honorarium ranging from Rs 1000/- to Rs 3000/-? This is nothing but a posture made by the Govt for publicity and real game is to deny them the actual coverage through backdoor.
Your statement that ‘disinvestment is being made to bring in efficiency’ and FDI ‘for infusion of capital’, is also unacceptable since that does not stand the test of rationality. The government today is, clearly, not confining itself to ‘disinvestment’. It is reported that NITI Ayog has prepared a list of 74 PSUs including the highly profit making ones for total sell out in the name of ‘strategic sale’. The government has not issued any rejoinders to these reports. No patriotic trade union, for that matter, no patriotic organisation can accept this policy of sell out of PSUs which hold the foundation of our national economy. Similarly, unrestricted FDI in defence, railways, banks and insurance and retail trade cannot be accepted by us, as it is against the greater interest of our people and the national economy.
In view of the above, it is not possible for us to reconsider the decision to go for countrywide general strike on 2nd September 2016, which we request you to kindly take note of.
In this connection, we also convey our strong protest against the discriminatory treatment meted out to the central trade unions by the government, while openly patronising one. It is highly regrettable and shocking that the Group of Ministers formed by the government to discuss with the central trade unions on the 12 point charter of demands, of which you are also a member, is patronising and confiding with one union which is not a party to the call for general strike by holding discussions with it, while the central trade unions which have given the strike notice are ignored. We denounce such undemocratic bias on the part of the government, which is unprecedented in post independent India.
( TAPAN SEN )
26th August 2016
Foil the Conspiracy to Distract the Countrywide United Struggle
Centre of Indian Trade Unions denounces the dubious conspiratorial move by the Govt to sabotage the countrywide General Strike on 2nd September 2016 called jointly by almost all the Central Trade Unions in the country alongwith all the independent national federations of the employees of banks, insurance, defence, telecom state and central govt departments against the anti-worker, anti-people policies of the Govt pushing the lives of the working people at large as well as the national economy to the path of disaster.
Despite continued persuasion by all the Central Trade Unions for sorting out the 12 point charter of demands involving demands of not only the workers but the entire common-folk, the Govt of India adopted an arrogant non-responsive attitude while unilaterally taking one after another step towards imposing retrograde changes on the rights and working conditions of the workers, ignoring the oppositions of all the Central Trade Unions and federations including BMS.
Despite announcement for countrywide General Strike on 2nd September 2016 as back as on March 30, 2016 by all the Central Trade Unions and National Federations in the country except BMS, the Group of Ministers formed by the Govt for the purpose did not bother to even call the concerned Central Trade Unions for any discussion. On the other hand, the Govt started confiding on the same issues of the General strike with its non-striking ally, seeking to create an impression as if the Govt is responding to the demands of the workers. This is nothing but a conspiracy to create confusion and foil the forthcoming strike. It must be retorted back effectively.
On so called Labour law reforms which are designed to push overwhelming majority of workers out of the coverage of basic labour laws, introduce “hire and fire”, legitimize contractorisation of regular work and promote work at payment of less than minimum wage, etc, the Govt repeated its stale statement that same will be done through tripartite consultation. In fact does such tripartite consultation make any sense where the unanimous opinion of all the central trade unions including BMS is totally ignored and decision is taken by Govt-employers unholy gang-up? In this process only, Factory(Amendment)Bill was introduced in Parliament, Small Factories Bill has been given Cabinet approval, “fixed term employment” is being introduced through executive order, Provident fund money has been parked at stock market for gambling, ESI Act is being sought be amended for replacing ESI by mediclaim products, Motor Vehicles(Amendment) Bill has been introduced in Parliament to impose atrocious conditions on the road-transport workers enmasse. Side by side, through the BJP-ruled state govts, mass scale retrograde changes in all labour laws have already been put in place in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Haryana, Maharashtra etc. Hence all talks of tripartite consultation is nothing but a fraud and farce.
The entire trade union movement of the country, irrespective of affiliations condemns and denounces such anti-democratic conspiratorial design of the Govt and calls upon the working people of all affiliations to give a fitting reply to such dubious conspiracy of the strike breakers by making the Countrywide General Strike on 2nd September 2016 a massive success.
(TAPAN SEN )
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