Photos (1) Com. V.A.N.Namboodiri along with Com. Gilda (Cuba) and Com. Quim Boix, General Secretary TUI (P and R) (2) Inaugural Session – Delegates (3) Delegates Session (4) Com. Namboodiri addressing the inaugural session.
A Brief Report on the Foundation Congress of TUI ( P&R), WFTU held at Barcelona on 5-6 February 2014
The Foundation Congress for forming the Trade Union International (Pensioners and Retirees), WFTU was held at Barcelona, Spain on 5-6 February 2014. About 60 delegates from 40 Federations/Unions in 20 countries from all continents participated. There were many observers and visitors also. From India 3 delegates attended. Com.V.A.N.Namboodiri, Adisor, AIBDPA and Patron, NCCPA attended on behalf of these two organizations, deputed by CITU. Coms.G. Natarajan and D.Goplakrishnan were the other delegates.
The Inaugural Session was held at a spacious hall in the centre of the city, Barcelona, on 4th February 2014, participated by about one hundred delegates/visitors including special invitees and important trade union leaders from Spain. Since the Congress was going to be held somewhat away from the main Barcelona City, this inaugural Session was organized to get media and public attention in the city. Comrade Quim Boix, Chairman of the Preparatory Committee, presided. The aims and target of forming the new TUI for Pensioners and Retirees were explained by the President. Leaders of various organizations and delegates from a few countries addressed. Com. V.A.N.Namboodiri addressed the Open Session on behalf of the Pensioners Organisations in India and congratulated the organizers and WFTU for this important step.
In many countries including Spain, the World Federation of Trade Unions (WFTU) is called as Federacion Sindical Mundial (FSM), the Spanish equivalent for WFTU.
Foundation Congress of TUI (P and R)
The Foundation Congress of the TUI (P and R) was held in Masia Cottage, on a hill-top surrounded by trees and thick vegetation. The cottage and facilities available are owned by a Lawyers Collective Team in Defense of Workers’ Rights called Col-lectiu Ronda and was allotted free for use to the Congress. All appreciated the arrangement for accommodation, food etc. which was done in a very efficient manner by the Spanish CSU of Pensioners and Retirees along with the JUBIQUE organization based in Madrid, the capital of Spain.
The Delegates Session held on 5th February was presided over by Comrade Quim Boix, Chairman Preparatory Committee. After welcoming all the delegates by the leaders of the Organising Committee, the President explained in detail about the back ground – decision of WFTU Athens Conference to form a TUI of P and R, the meeting of the Preparatory Committee in S.Africa, the meeting of the WFTU/FSM in Athens out of which the present foundation Congress is being held. The draft document for this Congress was prepared after all these deliberations. He also mentioned about the powerful agitations organized by the pensioners and retirees in various countries against the cut in pension etc. imposed after the recession which continues till now. He read out the Draft Declaration and other documents prepared by the Preparatory Committee for discussion in the Congress.
A Video Message from Comrade George Mavrikos, Secretary General of WFTU, was displayed in the screen, in which he congratulated the delegates, wished the Congress success and which was received with great applause by the house.
In the discussion delegates from Cyprus, Brazil, Portugal, Congo, France, Cuba, Mexico, Argentina, Columbia, Canary Islands, Australia, Nepal, Great Britain, Ecuador, Bass Country, Sahara, Bahrain, India etc. participated. The reports from the various organizations from the different countries were educative. The recession and the consequent curtailment of pension and pensionary benefits are resulting in acute difficulties for P andR. The pensioners are on the defensive and are organizing agitations and struggles. While the delegates from all the countries spoke about the attacks on pension, curtailment of TU activities etc., the speakers from Cuba spoke about the more and more benefits that the workers and the pensioners were getting under the socialist government. The great difference between the Socialist Government and the capitalist rulers were clear to all the delegates.
From India, Coms. V.A.N.Namboodiri and D.Gopalakrishnan addressed. Com. Namboodiri in his speech mentioned about the anti-worker attitude of the present government and the valiant struggles organized under the leadership of the Central trade Unions, including the Parliament March and the 48 hours strike on 20-21 February 2013. The organizational position of the NCCPA and AIBDPA was briefed. A note was given to the organizers earlier with all the details and suggestions with regard to the formation of the TUI of P and R.
After discussion, the draft proposals, Bye-law etc. were adopted unanimously. The Trade Union International of Pensioners and Retirees (TUI (P and R) was declared as formed. Office Bearers with Comrade Com. Dimos Koumpouris (Greece) as President and Comrade Quim Boix (Spain) as General Secretary
It was decided that the next Congress will be held at Bahrain after 5 years.
The Foundation Congress and the formation of the TUI of P and R, as part of the World Federation of Trade Unions has inspired the Pensioners and Retirees the world over. It is hoped that this will help the pensioners and retirees organizations in their onward march. More and more organizations may join the TUI of P&R in the near future.
V.A.N.Namboodiri New Delhi
Patron NCCPA 10-02-2014
Organising the World Pensioners and Retirees is the Need of the Hour.
The State Pensioners and Retirees (P and R) all over the world are in substantial number. In India alone, it is about one 10 million. It may be about 50 million or more all over the world. If all types of pensioners are taken, the number may be much more. The Pension and other retirement benefits are different and varied in separate countries. Social Security measures also vary.
In many countries, the conditions of the state pensioners are dismal, where even the trade union rights are denied. The governments with different social structures have different and varied systems for the P and R. The October Revolution in 1917 and formation of the USSR was a change maker for the P and R also as for the working class. But this did not percolate in the capitalist societies immediately. The II World War and the defeat of Fascism resulted in many countries winning freedom from their colonial masters and independent governments of their own. Not only that. In the capitalist countries also many reforms were introduced, especially for the P and R, since there were a large number of war pensioners and families of those who were killed during the war. This resulted in certain new and additional social security measures. Thus both in the newly liberated countries and in the capitalist countries, development took place for the workers and P&R.
The collapse of the USSR and the socialist states in the East European countries in the latter part of the last century changed many things. The neo-liberal policies and so called reforms in the economic sphere, while benefitting the corporates, financiers and the super-rich, resulted in taking away of the rights of the workers and P and R both in developed and developing countries. The austerity measures being implemented in all these countries consequent to the economic melt-down of 2007 made the situation worse. The retirement age has been increased, the pension has been reduced and other retirement benefits curtailed. This is the case with Spain, Portugal, Greece and other countries in Europe.
The situation is not much different in India. The Central Government Employees as also that of the State Government Employees were granted Defined Pension ie. pension as half of the last received basic pay, without any other string to it. Now the Government of India has passed an act, changing the Defined Pension in to Contributory Pension. According to the new Pension Fund Regulatory and Development Act (PFRDA), all those recruited in Central and State Government services after 01-01-2004 will not get the Defined Pension as earlier. They will getting the contributory pension as per a New Pension Scheme ( now renamed as National Pension Scheme (NPS).
According to NPS, the employees have to contribute 12% of their salary to Provident Fund and as much will be contributed by the Government. This will be put in a Fund, which will be managed by a Fund Manager like State Bank of India or such Banks or other Private Fund Managers. At the time of retirement, a portion will be paid in cash to the employee and the other portion will be utilized for paying monthly pension to the retiree. There is restriction on the maximum of such pension. At present, according to this scheme retirees are getting a very paltry sum, in many cases less than Rs.1,000. The Central and state government employees organised many agitations including March to Indian Parliament, Strike etc. , but the government did not cancel the new scheme. The struggle continues against this scheme. The unions demand the restoration of the defined pension scheme.
As per the defined pension rules, the P and R will get Dearness Allowance (DA) on the % basis, whenever, there is an increase in the DA of the regular employees on the basis of the increased Cost of Living Index (CLI). This is reviewed after every six months.
Medical Allowance is given, but at the rate of Rs. 300 only. The demand is for rs.1,200, but not yet agreed by government. Reimbursement of Medical expenses exists. Treatment is also provided through Central Government Health Scheme for those who opt for the same.
The employees of the Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL) a Public Sector Corporation formed from the Department of Telecom, as part of the neo-liberalisation policy of the government and against the strong protests of the employees, is having the same pension scheme s well as the Central government. All India BSNL – DOT Pensioners’ Association (AIBDPA) has members from both the government P&R as well as BSNL P&R.
In BSNL, the medical scheme differs a little, but not much. Pension is paid by the government, and the BSNL has to pay pension contribution to the government. As in the case of the government employees, whenever there is any wage revision for the regular employees, then the pensioners get pension revision. However, many agitational programmes had to be organized by the BSNL P&R to get the pension revision. The wage revision and pension revision is generally made after every ten years since 1996.
The recognized organization of regular employees in BSNL, BSNL Employees Union, has taken much interest in settling the issues of BSNL Pensioners. On the revision of pension itself, it has gone on strike twice. The slogan is that “Today you are a worker, Tomorrow You are a Pensioner”. This helps the co-ordination of the employee and the P&R.
The neo-liberal policy and P and R
As stated earlier, the Government of India is continuing with its neo-liberal policy of Liberalisation, Privatisation and Globalisation (LPG) which is causing much misery to the working class and pensioners included. Spiraling prices, denial of trade union rights, attack on pension and pensionary benefits, privatization of government department in to corporations as a first step to privatization, privatization of Public Sector Units, denial of minimum wage, increase in working hours are all parts of the neo-liberalisation policy. All the 11 Central Trade Unions in India have jointly organized agitations against this anti-worker policy. 19 general strikes have taken place since 1991, with massive participation. A 48 hours strike was organized on 20-21 February 2013, which was participated by about 120 million workers. On 12th December 2014, a massive Parliament March participated by lakhs of workers was also organized. More agitational programmes are also being organized. The AIBDPA (P and R Organisation) has also participated in all these struggles.
There are two umbrella organizations of the state pensioners in India viz National Co-Ordination Committee of Pensioners Associations (NCCPA) and Bharat Central Pensioners Confederation (BCPC) to both of which AIBDPA is affiliated.
International Organisation of P and R
The decision of the WFTU to organize a Trade union International (TUI) of P and R is an appropriate and correct decision. It will help in understanding the problems of P and R world-wide as also in formulating the demands. In many countries, the number of state P and R may be more than the number of state employees. A P and R organization with progressive outlook will be an asset as part of the WFTU. Hence full support and assistance to the TUI of P and R is required by all.
V.A.N.Namboodiri, Advisor, AIBDPA, India.