The formation of Confederation of Central Government Employees & Workers gave hope and confidence to the workers. There were two important developments during this period. One was the resolution adopted on ‘Socialist Pattern of Society’ in the 1956 Avadi Conference of Indian National Congress. Second development was the decision taken in the 1957 Tripartite Labour Conference regarding Need Based Minimum Wage. Both were appreciated by the workers.
Ten years have passed after the First Pay Commission submitted its recommendations. National income has increased. The employees who are part of implementation of the programmes of the central government with sincerity and devotion expected that they had a right to get some benefit out of these favourable developments. The time to improve the salary and service conditions of the central employees had arrived, they felt.
Confederation and NFPTE raised the demand of constitution of the Second Pay Commission before the government. They demanded increase in wages and DA. ‘Pay Boycott’ was organized on 1st January 1957 raising these demands. A ‘Badge Campaign’ was also observed later.
Although a meeting was held by Communications Minister Raj Bahadur with NFPTE leaders and assurances were given that the demands will be favourably considered, nothing happened. Discussions were held with the newly appointed Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri also, but no result.
The joint meeting of All India Unions affiliated to NFPTE was held on 6th July 1957 in Delhi, which discussed these developments. The meeting expressed its strong protest against the delay in appointment of II Pay Commission as also grant of DA according to cost of living index. After thorough discussion, it was decided to serve notice for indefinite strike with effect from the midnight of 8/9 August 1957. The meeting also elected a Joint Action Committee consisting of V.G.Dalvi, Dada Ghosh, V.S.Menon, R.P.Chatterjee, P.S.R.Anjaneyulu, O.P.Gupta, S.K.Pakrasi, Jamnadas Akthar, Dharam Vir, Kabal Singh, Sukhlal Sharma, Jagannath, R.K.Dutta and Dholo Ram.
Strike notice was served on the government on 15th July 1957 along with the Charter of Demands consisting of seven most important demands. Communications Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri and Labour Minister Gulzarilal Nanda issued press statements opposing the decision to go on strike. JAC through press conference exposed the statements of the Central Ministers with facts and figures.
Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, along with Communications Minister and Labour Minister met the Joint Action Committee on 26th July and discussed the demands, but there was no assurance. Prime Minister was not prepared to appoint II Pay Commission. Hence the JAC decided to go on with strike preparations.
Central government on its part started hurried moves to crush the strike. Essential Service Maintenance Bill was presented in the Parliament on 5th August making strike punishable in essential services. Though many opposition M.P.s opposed, the bill was passed and ESMA came in to force.
K.K.Warrier, M.P. (CPI) moved a non-official bill in Parliament seeking appointment of II Central Pay Commission. Many M.P.s, including from the ruling party participated in the discussion supporting the same, putting the government under pressure.
The discussion in the Parliament, news in the press and the strong stand taken by the unions had its result. The Prime Minister issued press statement on 8th August 1957 announcing appointment of II Central Pay Commission. Communications Minister announced the following decisions:
1. The discrimination between Class III and Class IV employees on many service conditions will be removed. A separate committee will be appointed to deal with the problems of the ED employees.
2. Assam Compensatory Allowance issue will be settled. (P&T Employees in Assam were on agitation for months demanding restoration of the withdrawn Special Compensatory Allowance granted earlier considering the acute difficulties and special problems there).
The Joint Action Committee discussed the announcement of Pay Commission and assurances of the Prime Minister and Communications Minister and withdrew the proposed strike.
1. Demand for appointment of II CPC agreed.
2. DA issue will be referred to Pay Commission.
3. Discrimination between Class III and Class IV employees in matters of Leave, Pension and Medical facilities will be removed. Discrimination in T.A., D.A. etc will be referred to CPC.
4. The demand of merger of DA with pay will be referred to CPC.
5. Assam Compensatory Allowance issue will be sympathetically considered.
It was a big success for the employees to get these assurances from a government, which at first was not prepared to discuss the demands and when discussion started was not prepared to concede the demands. It was a victory for the workers achieved through their determination to fight, pressure from the M.P.s and of course due to the full justification of the demands, themselves. (To be continued).
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Chandrasekharn Puthiyaveettil and Mgs Kurup