New Year was ushered in by a highly informative and energizing WUM meeting held in Chennai on 5th of Jan, 2013. Workers and working class leaders from automobile engineering, manufacturing, aviation industry, hospitals, railways and municipal and panchayats, garment industry, construction and unorganized sectors attended the meeting. The meeting was held under the circumstances where workers realize the urgent need to unite all workers across industries and fight the escalating attacks on their rights and livelihood.
On behalf of WUM, Comrade Baskar made a visual and graphic presentation on the condition of workers and the response of the working class in fighting the increasing exploitation. The presentation highlighted the struggles of the workers all over India. Pictures showed the May Day demonstrations in Delhi and Chennai, manifestations of workers’ struggles across the country such as in Maruti Suzuki - Maneswar, Eastern Medikit - Gurgaon, Hyundai - Sriperumbuthur, Voltas - Mumbai, Air India pilots - Mumbai and Delhi, Air India workers - Chennai, nurses and hospital workers - Chennai, the Loco pilots’ convention and meetings, the working class conference held in Delhi by WUM, the working class protests in front of parliament, the All India General strike, Syndicate Wipers - Navi Mumbai, Bank Employees agitations and other working class actions. The speaker pointed out the militant struggles of the working class during the recent past and where these struggles are today. He pointed out that today capitalists are not willing to even grant legally established rights of the working class to them. The Labour department and the government are protecting and defending the capitalists in their illegal and blatant attacks on the workers as we have seen in Maruti Suzuki in Maneswar, Hyundai and Ford in Chennai.
The presentation also included images of the agitations and protest actions of other sections of people such as those of farmers in Haryana against the land acquisition, the mass rally of people against Posco in Orissa, the massive agitation of people in Koodankulam against the Atomic power plant, the protests against privatization in Delhi and Punjab, the agitations demanding food security, the manifestations on Human Rights day as well as the recent massive agitations of people in Delhi and other places against the gang rape of a student in Delhi. Besides theworking class, various other sections of people such as the peasants, women and students have been fighting for their rights and against attacks on their livelihood and basic rights, it was pointed out.
Then the presentation specifically took up the condition of workers in the automobile industry. The speaker presented various data and graphs on the automobile industry in India. The automobile industry in India has seen massive growth in the last few years. Both Indian and foreign monopoly capitalists who have set up automobile manufacturing units are super exploiting our workers to maximize their profits. Workers’ productivity has further increased from Rs. 21 Lakhs per employee in 2000-01 to Rs 57 Lakhs by 2005-06 at 1993-94 prices as the base. Profitability (Ratio of profit after tax to sales) of automobile manufacturing units were 6.07 in 2004-05 and 7.26 in 2005-06, and has further increased to 8.95 by 2006-07!
However, the real wages of the workers are falling year on year. From about Rs. 80,000 in 2000-01 and annual real wages has gone down to Rs. 64,000 by 2009-10. During the same time, surplus value generated per worker has massively increased from about Rs 3,00,000 to Rs 7,30,000. Workers’ wages as a percentage of the surplus value generated by them has drastically fallen from 28 % to 15.5% during the same period, confirming the super exploitation of workers, the speaker pointed out.
Thus, workers in the automobile industry have been losing over the years, while enhancing their contribution to the profits of these monopoly capitalists. The situation of the workers in the other sectors of industry is more or less the same.
With data, he pointed out that the monopoly capitalists of India in the last 20 year period from 1991 to 2011 have increased their turnover by 40 times. Specifically, the Mukesh Ambani Group has grown 87 times and that of Mittal 1500 times. Capitalists have amassed their wealth by super exploiting the workers, contracting and outsourcing more and more of the work and intensifying the work load on each worker and even by sacrificing the safety norms to extract maximum surplus value from the workers. He also mentioned how the government is trying to hand over the resources that belong to people for the benefit of the capitalists, such as in Air India, BSNL and Delhi Jal board.
While the average salary or wages in cities have risen by 38% between 2006 and 2011, prices of the essential commodities have risen by 72%. This in effect means that working people have lost their living standards during this period.
A report published by ILO in the last week of December also corroborates this. The report says that between 2008 and 2011, real wages in India have fallen by 1%, whereas workers’ productivity has increased by over 7.6%!
We should unite to oppose the exploitation of the capitalists and demand our rights. We should also demand and fight for the elimination of contract labour and end all anti-labour practices. We should demand the implementation of all the labour laws and fight for the revision of the labour laws to defend all the rights of workers. We must uphold the right to universal Social security for all organized and unorganized workers without exception.
In order to realize our demands, workers must rule this country. When we workers form the vast majority of this country, why should we not be the rulers? Yes, we must. However, the current political process is a very serious hurdle in our way to capture political power. It is actually marginalizing us - the majority from taking our rightful place in this society. We must fight to change this political process. We must fight for right of the people to select and elect candidates, for the elimination of muscle and money power from having any role in the elections, for the right to recall and to keep the control over the elected representatives at all times. We must take up this struggle along with other sections of people who are also interested in reforming the current political process.
Based on facts, figures and discussions, Com. Baskar called on the workers to further strengthen their unity cutting across the factory, industry, union and party considerations. It is such a unity and consciousness WUM is trying to build and strengthen. We must defend our rights and also fight for political power.
Following this informative and inspiring presentation, many working class leaders came up and presented their views.
Com. P.R.Ravidran, one of the leaders of AITUC welcomed the information presented. He said we must take this presentation to different sections of workers all over to inform the workers of today's situation. He stressed the need to raise the consciousness of every worker to defend our rights.
Com. S.Manidasan, Gen secretary of VHS Hospital workers union stated the terrible conditions of the working people today. It was the workers who were in the forefront of the freedom struggle of India against the British colonizers. Situation today is demanding that workers unite and prepare for another liberation struggle. It is right time to build the Workers Unity Movement as the situation is calling for militant unity of all workers against the attacks of the capitalists and their government, he said.
Com. P.Ravichandran, Union leader of Rane Engine Valves in his speech appreciated the presentation of such enlightening data and information on the plight of the workers. Similar analysis of this kind for important industries will be of immense help to the workers in their struggle, he said. This presentation is very clearly bringing out that we workers must go beyond the economic demands and take up demands of this whole society.
The Regional Secretary of All India Loco Running staff Association, Com.Balachandran explained the critical nature of the work of engine drivers in Indian railways. He also stated that their conditions have not changed from the days of Independence till today, in spite of many struggles and agitations. He exhorted the railway workers to militantly take up the struggle as was done in 1974. He assured his organization's support and commitment to the cause of WUM in building the unity of the workers.
Abraham, leader of the Tamil Nadu Democratic Construction Workers Union explained how the organized workers who are being thrown out of their jobs due to lay offs and lock outs, as well as the peasants who do not find agriculture remunerative and sustaining due to the domination of corporations and banks over agriculture are migrating to cities and becoming construction workers. The political and democratic system in India, instead of defending the livelihood and rights of the workers and peasants, is actually defending the "right" of monopolies - Indian and foreign to loot and exploit our people. Situation is calling on all of our people to change the political system so that working people can rule.
Com. Yadavraj, a leading activist of Air India United Workers Union narrated the conditions prevailing in Air India and the struggles they have under taken in the recent past. An organization which is being run by the people's resources, is illegally and in an unjust manner keeping large number of its workers as casuals for over 25 years, which is of permanent nature. The political system and the judiciary are all party to this unjust and criminal treatment. He requested all the organizations to support the just struggle of the Air India workers.
One of the leaders of the Unorganized Workers Federation - Com. Leelavathi spoke of the condition of the unorganized workers all over the country. She recounted the struggles they have undertaken in the past for the benefits and social security of the unorganized workers who form a vast majority in Indian society. In the globalized environment, workers are losing even their meager rights and benefits. The political and administrative system is very hostile to the demands of the workers. We need to build unity of the workers and fight these trends without any compromise, she concluded.
Com. D.Sampath spoke on behalf of the Garment workers from the Madras Export Processing Zone (MEPZ). He elaborated the plight of the workers in this industry. This situation has to be fought back by raising the consciousness and unity of the workers in this industry with support from other working class organizations, he said.
Com. S.K.G.Ekambaram - veteran communist and working class organizer mentioned the urgent need to raise the consciousness of the workers across all industries, built a militant fighting unity of all these workers and to forge ahead against the capitalists and the government that defends exploiters' interests. He thanked all the participants in this meeting and suggested that we must meet very often taking up the current issues faced by the working class. He called on all the workers and their organizations to plan and participate militantly in the Feb 20 & 21st strike. We must raise our voice against the anti-worker offensive and send a message to the rulers of this country that the working class is united against the present orientation of the economy.
The meeting ended with a firm resolve among the workers and working class leaders to build and strengthen the unity of workers and escalate the struggles in this new year of 2013 to win all our demands.