Thousands of workers declared their resolve to organise a General Strike on January 8, 2020, as part of developing the united resistance of the working class to the anti-worker, anti-social and anti-national course of the ruling class. They were participating in the National Open Mass Convention of Workers organized at Parliament Street on September 30, 2019. The call for the Convention had been given by ten Central Trade Unions -- INTUC, AITUC, HMS, CITU, AIUTUC, TUCC, SEWA, AICCTU, LPF and UTUC, to plan the future course of action of the working class.
Along with the activists of the Central Trade Unions, activists of the Mazdoor Ekta Committee, the federations of bank workers, insurance workers, railway workers, government employees, coal workers, defence sector workers, road transport workers, Asha and Anganwadi workers and workers from many other sectors of the economy actively participated in the Convention.
The trade union leaders who addressed the convention hailed the 70,000 ordinance factory workers for their militant strike to oppose the decision of the government to corporatize defence production, as a prelude to privatization. That strike temporarily forced the government to agree to reconsider the move to corporatize defence production. They hailed the united strike action of coal workers against the decision of the government to allow 100% FDI in coal mining. They applauded the struggle of railway workers against the plan for corporatization and privatization of railways, including privatization of engine and coach factories and selected trains. The united resistance of the workers has successfully stalled the privatization plans of the government in some cases over the last five years, they pointed out.
Speakers denounced the attack on right of workers to organize themselves in unions. They pointed out that hiring workers on temporary contracts and firing them at any time is being made even easier, while more and more factories are being moved out of the purview of labour laws. The government has perfected the art of turning profit-making companies into loss-making ones and then selling them off to the highest bidder, they said. They denounced the disinvestment and outright sale of profit making public sector companies like Indian Oil Corporation, NTPC, Powergrid, Oil India, GAIL, National Aluminum Company, BPCL, EIL, Bharat Earth Movers, etc., the government’s drive towards privatization of Indian Railways and the proposed sale of Air India. They highlighted the struggle of the workers against the privatization efforts of the government.
The speakers criticized the steps being taken by the government to open up many more sectors of the economy to foreign capital, including allowing 100% FDI in defence manufacturing and coal mining.
Referring to the struggle against the New Pension Scheme, the speakers called on the workers who were covered by the Old Pension Scheme to take up the struggle of the younger workers and not stay from it just because it does not specifically affect them.
The important point was raised that workers should not be content only with fighting for economic demands. We are the real wealth creators in the society and we have to take control of this wealth in our hands, speakers pointed out.
Speakers vigorously condemned the government’s attempts to foment divisions among the working class on the basis of religion, language, caste, region, etc., aimed at targeting the unity of the working class in its struggle against the attacks of the government.
The declaration adopted by the convention condemned the anti-working class and anti-national course of the government, which is completely committed to serving the big private corporate interests. The deep crisis facing the Indian economy has led to lakhs of workers in different sectors losing their jobs, including auto and auto component sectors, construction, garment exports, leather exports, telecom and IT sectors. Unemployment has reached its highest level in 45 years. It denounced the steps of the government to legitimize the loot of public money in the banks by the defaulting corporate houses. The government’s move on merger of banks will negatively impact the banking services and employment conditions of the bank workers, it explained.
The declaration pointed out that every one of the 12 point charter of demands put forward by the Central Trade Unions has been rejected by the government. Listing the many struggles of the working class and peasantry over the last 6 years, it showed how the government has violated its promises to the people on every score. It denounced the all-sided attacks on the working class. The government has passed the Wage Code Bill, rejecting the demand of the workers’ unions for a minimum wage of Rs. 21,000 and adjustment with cost of living. It has rejected the workers’ demand for universal social security and introduced the Code on Occupational Safety, Health and Working Conditions Bill in parliament, which excludes a large section of the working class. It is planning to push through the Code on Industrial Relations and the Code on Social Security. All this is being done in the name of improving “ease of doing business” of the Indian and foreign corporate houses.
The declaration demanded a National Minimum Wage of Rs. 21,000 per month and Rs. 10,000 per month minimum pension for all. It demanded an effective Employment Guarantee Act to cover all rural and urban households, implementation of MNREGA with increased number of days and budget allocation. It demanded increased public investment to mitigate rural distress, remunerative price as per the Swaminathan Commission’s recommendations for agricultural produce, with procurement facilities and loan waiver of the peasantry. It demanded a universal public distribution system. It demanded permanency of employment, worker status for all scheme workers, abolition of contract system and regularization of contract workers, equal pay and benefits for equal work, etc.
The National Convention appealed to all the workers, irrespective of their affiliations, to join hands and coordinate their sectoral struggles into a mighty countrywide movement, to force the government to reverse these anti-national policies.
The Convention announced the decision to organise a country-wide strike on January 8, 2020 in support of the above demands. It gave a call to carry out an extensive campaign throughout the country in every sector and every state, to make the strike a grand success.
The CGPI considers the National Workers Convention an important step in our efforts to strengthen the united resistance of the working class to the all-sided attacks of the bourgeoisie. In the course of developing this united resistance, there is need to elaborate the independent, alternative program of the working class and build the unity of the workers around it, in the trade unions, federations, work places and amongst all sections of workers.