The All India Loco Running Staff Association (AILRSA)) organized a countrywide protest on November 15, 2011 in support of their long standing demands. Engine drivers all over the country went on a 24 hour fast to mark their protest.
Drivers all over India went to duty without taking food. When off duty, they gathered in front of their respective headquarters and staged a dharna. They also submitted a memorandum to the authorities listing their grievances and gave notice that this was the last notice being given to the authorities. They said in their memorandum that the drivers and their association had tried all legal means to get their problems resolved. But seeing the uncooperative attitude of the authorities they would have to decide a direct action as the next step in their struggle.
It may be recalled that on October 11, 2010, the Regional Labour Commissioner, New Delhi had declared the conciliation process as failed. In his order, he squarely blamed the Railway management for the failure of the process by not attending the meetings. As per the rules if the conciliation proceedings fail then a National Tribunal has to be constituted by the Government as the next step in the judiciation process. This also was not done. It is to protest against these anti worker actions of the railway authorities and the government that the engine drivers undertook the 24 hour hunger fast.
What do these developments show? The Indian state has setup an elaborate mechanism of tripartite negotiations, conciliation, etc. While it would appear on the face of it that this is in the interest of workers, in fact it is a process to attack the workers and blunt their struggle. Workers are caught in endless negotiations, while the management and government is free to carry on its anti worker course. It is an elaborate mechanism to co-opt the trade union leadership, especially in the state sector, into an arrangement which is essentially anti worker. The labour department and machinery of the state has shown time and again that while it is toothless to defend workers interests, it can with great venom attack workers on behalf of capital. This has been glaringly shown in the way the Haryana labor department has refused Maruthi Suzuki workers even the right to form of union of their choice. The AILRSA and engine drivers organized under its banner are coming to these conclusions from their own bitter experience.
At the initiative of the CGPI, LRS and various trade unions, a joint campaign has been going on in Mumbai and Delhi as well as other places in support of the rail drivers. On November 14, activists from AILRSA, Communist Ghadar Party of India, Lok Raj Sangathan, All India Voltas Employees Federation, Ladaku Garment Mazdoor Sangh, and other organizations distributed thousands of leaflets at Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (VT) in the evening. . The leaflet was signed by 20 trade Unions and mass organizations. Many of the commuters, impressed by the collective action, stopped by and engaged the activists in discussions regarding the problems faced by the engine drivers. They were astonished to know these and applauded the initiative to make the working people aware of these problems. They also roundly condemned the Governments anti worker attitude and expressed how in their daily life they were also feeling the anti people attitude and policies of the government.
Mazdoor Ekta Lehar extends its full support to the AILRSA and the engine drivers in their just struggle.