The full secretariat of CITU met in Delhi on 23- 24 September to have a preliminary review of the country wide general strike on 2nd September 2015 and formulate future tasks to carry the movement forward. – out of the total – secretariat members from all over the country attended the meeting. The initial assessment of the central trade unions that the strike was massive and unprecedented was endorsed by the full secretariat of CITU. It also affirmed that the withdrawal of BMS had no impact on the strike.
The grand success of the strike is an unambiguous proof of the growing anger and discontent of the working class towards the policies being pursued by the Modi led NDA government at the centre. It was also a strong signal that the working class was not ready to buy the argument, put forward by BMS for backing out from the strike, that the BJP led government has taken positive measures on several points in the charter of demands. Reports from several states have shown that in many states the BMS members and even many local leaders of BMS were not happy with the decision of the BMS leadership to withdraw from the strike. In several states, they did not take back the strike notices that they have given jointly with the other trade unions. Many have openly expressed their dissatisfaction at the decision of their leadership which they felt was not correct. The anger among the workers against the government policies and the impact created by the unity of all trade unions and the joint campaign was such that in most of the states, local BMS leadership could not come out strongly against the strike. In some states it was the RSS cadres who openly opposed the strike. Many BMS members and even some local leaders in several states have reportedly joined the strike. It was apparent that BMS withdrew from the strike at the behest of RSS, the head of its parivar, which has declared that it was satisfied with the performance of the government, which it said was on the right path. This certificate was given from the meeting of the Samanvay Samiti of the RSS, which started on the same day as the strike. The workers obviously did not endorse this certificate.
A very important feature of this strike, noted by the CITU secretariat, was the participation of the workers both in the organised and unorganised sectors, who were not members of any trade union. It is estimated that around 40% of those who participated in the strike were totally non unionised. In many states including Madhya Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Haryana, and several others, the workers spontaneously reacted to the strike call wherever the campaign reached them.
This was particularly visible among the road transport workers who overwhelmingly joined the strike surpassing all expectations. The sustained campaign of the All India Road Transport Workers’ Federation (AIRTWF) affiliated to CITU, the district and state committees of CITU and the joint all India strike of road transport workers on 30th April 2015 contributed immensely in exposing the dangerous impact of the so called Road Safety Bill on all sections of road transport workers, including state road transport, private road transport and auto rickshaw drivers etc. An overwhelming majority of road transport workers who participated in the strike were not at all unionised. They spontaneously reacted to the leaflets and booklets printed by the CITU and AIRTWF, joined the strike and invited the CITU leadership to address their meetings. In some states, they photocopied the materials and circulated among themselves. In some states, unionised state road transport corporation workers who had never joined any strike till now, also participated in the strike this time.
Similar response was also observed in many industrial areas in many states. In some states, CITU committees served strike notice on all factories in the industrial cluster irrespective of whether it had affiliated unions or not. Significantly all the workers in these industrial clusters participated in the strike. It was noted that in many industrial clusters where the workers did not belong to any union, all the workers joined the strike en masse. Similarly non unionised industrial workers in states like Himachal Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, and Haryana etc also joined the strike in large numbers.
While all the twelve points in the charter of demands were important, some issues like amendment to labour laws, minimum wages, equal wage and benefits to contract workers, recognition of ‘scheme workers’ as workers with all attendant benefits, price rise and disinvestment struck a chord with large sections of the working class.
CITU secretariat also expressed its dismay and severe resentment at the way the government chose to ignore the anger of the working class expressed through this massive strike. Though it was compelled to let the Land Acquisition Ordinance to lapse and keep the GST bill pending due to various political reasons, the BJP led government is going full steam with its project of labour law amendments. The Prime Minister reportedly directed the Labour Ministry not to lose the momentum. Intense preparations are being made to get the Labour Code Bills passed at the earliest to satisfy the domestic and foreign corporations that the ‘ease of doing business’ in India has improved.
In this situation, the CITU secretariat decided that this challenge could be met by the working class only by keeping the momentum of its struggle too intact. The working class cannot afford to be content and rest with the success of this strike. The campaign among the workers must continue. This strike proved that workers respond when we are able to reach them with concrete issues, demands and programmes. In view of this, such efforts must be multiplied several times to reach all those multitudes of workers whom this campaign could not reach. It called upon all its committees and cadres to continue the countrywide campaign and agitation on the 12 point charter of demands through October and November with particular focus on the pro corporate labour law amendments, minimum wage of Rs 15000, same wage to contract workers as the regular workers doing the same job, recognition to scheme workers as workers with attendant benefits, containing price rise and universalise PDS and stopping disinvestment.
The myth propagated by the government and the BMS that seven out of the twelve points in the charter of demands of the trade unions have been addressed by the government should be effectively exposed from our independent platform during this campaign. A detailed note debunking the government’s claims would be prepared by the CITU centre, which should be utilised for taking the message to wider sections of workers.
CITU secretariat also called upon its various industrial federations as well as committees to take the initiative to take up militant sectoral struggles on the specific demands of the workers in that particular sector wherever possible jointly or independently. Sectoral joint struggles have already been planned in some sectors like the anganwadi employees, electricity employees etc.
The importance of bringing all the non unionised workers who participated in the strike, particularly the road transport workers, into the organisational fold was also emphasised by the CITU secretariat. It reiterated the importance of paying special attention to organise the workers in the road transport sector and the industrial workers by allotting suitable cadres.
While noting the key role played by CITU committees and cadres in ensuring the success of the strike, the CITU secretariat also pointed out that this was not reflected in the CITU membership. It called upon all its committees to simultaneously ensure that the membership base of CITU is also expanded during the October – November campaign, to reflect its true strength.
The importance of developing closer relationship with the people and involve them in the struggles in such sectors where their interests were linked with the interests of the industry and the employees was also stressed by the CITU secretariat. Efforts have already been initiated in some sectors like ICDS and electricity. The difficulties that common people would face due to the privatisation and dismantling of the road transport sector should also be explained to the common people and their support sought in fighting privatisation of road transport.
The huge participation in solidarity actions, of peasants and agricultural workers and of members of AIDWA, SFI and DYFI in several states, was an important feature of this strike. The call of CITU to observe an all India Day on 30th July 2015 in solidarity with the peasants demands including its campaign against the Land Acquisition Ordinance had a very positive impact. The CITU secretariat decided to take this forward and called upon all its state committee to observe one day during the October November campaign to focus the agrarian crisis and in solidarity with the demands of the peasants and agricultural workers.
CITU secretariat warned the working class of the dangers of the divisive forces which sought to disrupt the unity and divide the working class on the basis of different kinds of identity. The present global crisis is having impact on the country despite the denial of the government. It is bringing into focus several problems which cannot be solved by the capitalist system. The Patidar agitation in Gujarat demanding reservations to the Patels, a well to do section is a reflection of one such problem. It exposes the myth of the ‘Gujarat model’ of development where youth are not able to find decent employment opportunities. In effect this is a movement for the withdrawal of reservations for the SC/ ST and backward sections. This is influencing sections of middle class employees and others as well.
The communal forces are utilising various occasions to spread their divisive ideology. The government itself is carrying out the directives of the RSS to push its ideology and line in the fields of history, science, education, culture etc and communalise the various government institutions. These pose a serious threat to the unity of the working class and hamper its ability to intensify united struggles against the onslaughts of the ruling classes on its basic rights. CITU called upon the working class to be vigilant against all such moves and protect its unity which alone would enable it to strengthen united struggles and protect its interests in the coming days.