On June 30, 2013, the All India Loco Running Staff Association (AILRSA) organised a Convention in Madurai on the theme "Accident Free Train Service". The Convention was held at Meenakshi Mahal on TB Road.
The Convention condemned the Railway Authorities and the Central Government for being callous about both the health and well being of loco pilots and co pilots, and about the safety of passengers.
Speakers denounced the railway administration for not implementing the order of the Regional Labour Commissioner, Chennai, that reclassified the category of nature of job of loco men from ‘continuous’ to ‘intensive’. This meant that their shift time had to be restricted to 6 hours. The order, which was issued on December 11, 2009, after a job analysis, was upheld by the Joint Secretary, Ministry of Labour and Employment, on February 18, 2013. The Ministry had dismissed the appeal of the Southern Railway General Manager questioning its decision. However, even 4 months after the Ministry's order, the authorities have refused to implement it.
The AILRSA Convention noted that the railways, over a period, had reclassified as “intensive” the job nature of railway traffic controllers and station masters in higher traffic railway sections in Chennai division. However it was refusing to apply the same yard stick to loco pilots.
The main factors that were considered for the reclassification of the nature of job of loco men to “intensive” are the strenuous nature of the work tending to cause mental or physical strain and continuous work with little or no periods of relaxation.
Inaugurating the Convention, the Chairman of the AILRSA (South Zone) Comrade Prakash, called upon the loco running staff and all railway workers to unite around the demand for restricting the duty to six hours in order to ensure accident free service
Paul Davidson, veteran leader of the AILRSA hailed the heroic struggle of loco men for their just demands. he pointed out that the loco men must not have illusions about the government of India, the railway adminstration, or the labour courts. The only way forward was uncompromising and militant struggle for their just rights. The government was guilty of violating the human rights of the railway workers. He recalled the savage attacks on railmen following the railway strike of 1974 including the jailing of many railway union leaders. He called upon the rail workers to build united struggle committees in every division of the railways.
Comrade Parthasarathy from Chennai pointed out that the Railway Administration was refusing to carry out a scientific analysis of the stress load on locomen. On the one hand it spoke about its concern for "safety". On the other hand, it was not even looking at the issue of reducing the shift duty hours of loco men.
Comrade T.Ganesan from the Southern Railway Mazdoor Union said that the 6th Pay Commission had stopped the Medical Benefits for Railmen. In terms of reducing accidents, the railway authorities had not eliminated the unmanned level crossings, or built road over bridges. Hundreds of engines are in bad condition of repair.
Comrade E.Saravanamuthvel, leader of the Mazdoor Ekta Cmmittee (MEC), extended the full support of the MEC to the just demands of the locomen. He congratulated the AILRSA on organising the Convention on the important theme of "accident free train service", showing their concern for the millions of passengers. he demanded that the government and railway authorities immediately reduce the working hours of locomen to 6 hours. He pledged that MEC would work unitedly with the AILRSA and all railway workers in defence of their rights, and the rights of all working people, against the anti people policies of the Central and state government.
A large delegation of over 50 rail workers from Mumbai participated in the Convention. Comrade Ashok Tamo Rey elaborated upon the problems faced by rail workers in Mumbai. He called upon all rail workers to unite and fight the anti social offensive of the government. He said rail workers struggle should be directed to bringing about a revolutionary transformation in Indian society.
The Convention concluded with the address of Comrade Soundra Pandian, organiser of AILRSA (South Zone). He pointed out that the government was working solely for the interests of the corporate houses. He called upon the activists to organise amongst the masses of people along with the workers unity movement, human rights organisations and other peoples organisations to build the fighting unity of the working people against the government.