Cover Feature

Sixth All-India Conference of AICCTU

It was an exceptional, different and historic gathering for Guwahati, in fact for the whole North Eastern region. Guwahati witnessed the first ever all- India trade union conference, and that too from a revolutionary trade union organization. More than 350 delegates from Chennai of extreme South to Jaipur of extreme North had assembled on the occasion of the sixth all-India conference of the All India Central Council of Trade Unions (AICCTU) on 21-23 May 2005. Delegates from 16 states and 26 sectors attended the conference. The conference was preceded by a national convention on “Strengthen Worker-Public Coordination to Defend Public Sector” on 20 May.

Open Session

The open session of the conference was held on 22 May and was attended by Swadesh Deb Roy, CITU, Shyamal Roy, TUCC, Bimal Nandi, UTUC (LS), Natha Singh, President, CITU Punjab, Tripti Trivedi, CGHS and Pulak Ganguly, Organising Secretary, NFTE.

Dr. Amalendu Guha, eminent intellectual, social scientist and a Left activist released the Souvenir of the conference. Dr. Amalendu Guha, in his speech, said that “Down with Imperialism” should be the central slogan of the Left trade union movement in the country. He expressed concern for Left unity that is very much essential in the backdrop of capitalist onslaught on the working class and urged Left trade unions to march in unison to fight the attack of capital. He also said that the much-celebrated neo-liberal policies have not brought any prosperity either in the short term or in the long term.

The attractive Souvenir contained articles related to the contemporary and relevant issues of the working class movement and on the issues of Assam . Solidarity messages from DSP, Australia and Alain Baron, SUD-PTT of France were also read out.

On the day of the conference, on 21 May, thousands of workers of Assam and North Bengal , mainly tea garden workers, along with conference delegates marched on the streets of Guwahati. The entire city was thrown out of gear by the impressive ‘Mazdoor Ekta Rally’ (Workers Unity Rally) that raised thundering slogans against privatization and implications of liberalization. The rally was addressed by Comrade Dipankar Bhattacharya, General Secretary of the CPI(ML) along with other guests, including Comrade Osamu Yamano, Vice President of Japan Confederation of Railway Workers (JRU).

The conference began with electing a presidium and a steering committee to conduct the business. Comrade Dipankar Bhattacharya delivered the inaugural address. Comrade Dipankar said that the onslaught of capital on workers is not just economic; rather, it is ideological and political. He expressed his concern over growing depoliticisation among the working class and held the central trade unions and the politics of compromise of their political parties responsible for such depoliticisation. He said that most of the trade unions owe their political allegiance to either parties in power or the parties of power – ranging from the Congress to the Communist party – that follow the same orientation and policies. He also said that criticizing NGOs only at the realm of ideology is not enough; rather a revolutionary trade union should be able to establish its supremacy in terms of ideas, initiative, struggles and organization. He also said that a trade union is an intermediate organization between a communist party and the mass of workers. Individual trade unions may have many limitations and weaknesses. The task of a central trade union is not to condone them but to work for eliminating them. He also said that the trade union should work with whole range of forces at various levels, not formally but seriously. He concluded his address with a call for inculcating clear vision and developing strong determination in order to develop an alternative trade union practice of class struggle against the politics of compromise.

Delegates began their deliberations on the draft political resolutions and the organizational review presented by the General Secretary Comrade Swapan Mukherjee.

Public Meeting

The public meeting organized, as a culmination of the rally on 21 st May, on the banks of Brahmaputra was addressed by Comrade Dipankar Bhattacharya, General Secretary of CPI(ML), Jayanta Rongpi, former MP, Rameshwar Prasad, General Secretary of AIALA, Osamu Yamano, VP, JRU, Mukta Manohar, Maharashtra, Srilata Swaminathan, President of AIPWA, Rubul Sharma, state secretary of CPI(ML), Lakshmi Kurmi, Tea Garden, ASCSS and Swapan Mukherjee, General Secretary of AICCTU. Comrade Biren Kalita, President of AICCTU, Assam presided over the public meeting.

The conference criticized the aggressive implementation of policies of liberalization, privatization and globalisation by the UPA government following the footsteps of NDA, in spite of the people’s mandate against the course of liberalization. It also said that the CMP cannot be the basis for developing working class movement in the present juncture. The conference also criticized the theory of ‘interdependence’ articulated by some Left leaders. It also said that the Left had failed to make any imprint on the overall functioning of the UPA government in spite of dependence of the UPA government on the Left. The conference also passed resolutions against the inapplicability of labour laws in SEZs, anti-worker labour reforms, Patents Act, increase in FDI cap, and the eyewash of National Employment Guarantee Scheme. It also demanded a separate, comprehensive bill for agrarian labourers, and a bill for the protection of unorganized workers and their social security measures.

Some of the experiences narrated by delegates were really inspiring. One such experience is that of the oil sector in Assam where we began with a small group of workers and have reached the position of being a major component of North Eastern Region Oil Workers Coordination Committee (NEROWCC) of 17 unions which is a pioneer of oil workers coordination in the country. Moreover, oil and power workers of Assam jointly called for a bandh on 21 April in Assam against privatization of oil sector and unbundling of Assam State Electricity Board into five private companies. The significance of the bandh was that it was jointly supported by Left parties CPI, CPI(M) and CPI(ML) in the sta

Convention on Coordination between Workers and the General Public

A convention on “Strengthening Worker-Public Coordination to Defend Public Sector” was held at Guwahati on 20 May preceding the all-India conference of AICCTU. The convention passed resolutions against handing over of ONGC oil fields to a Canadian firm, dismantling of Assam State Electricity Board into five private companies, denationalization of coal sector, privatization of transport in Delhi, and FDI in telecom and Airports, etc. The convention resolved to launch a nationwide movement against privatization based on the Assam experience of oil and power workers’ struggle. It also decided to organize a massive convention at Delhi during the next session of Parliament.

The convention was addressed by Comrade Dipankar Bhattacharya, General Secretary of CPI(ML), Swapan Mukherjee, General Secretary of AICCTU, M.K.Ghoshal, General Secretary of Airport Authority Employees Union, Ajay Raj Konwar, ASDWU, B.D.Sharma, SBISA, Rambali Prasad, Bihar State Government Employees Federation, Akhil Ranjan Dutta, Lecturer, Yuwalax University, Upen Tallukdar, AITUC, Ashok Kumar Roy, Kagaj Nigam Karmi Union, Tripti Trivedi, CGHS, Bishwanarayan Yogi, Indian Oil Workers Union (IOWU) and Dinesh Das, Assam State Employees Federation.

te. Moreover, when power workers went on a militant rasta roko, it was made successful in many districts because of the active involvement of AICCTU activists. Here too, our comrades played a pioneering role in founding an independent union of power workers with a membership of more than 8000. The Assam experience reveals the open and broad-minded approach of AICCTU activists to forge class unity and to advance class struggle fighting against narrow trade union rivalries. On the other hand, ASCSS, the trade union of tea workers affiliated to AICCTU in Assam and our union in North Bengal are emerging as alternative platforms against the domination of pro-management union owing allegiance to the Congress. With our consistent and uncompromising struggles and organization, tea workers have started joining our union in large numbers in recent times. The pro-management union and the Congress are facing a threat of decline of their social base among tea workers.

In Tamil Nadu, our work among construction labour is developed as an alternative practice focusing on movemental thrust in contrast to the welfare board-centric activities of other unions in the construction labour movement in general. Among beedi labourers too, we are enjoying influence among thousands and thousands of beedi workers and are waging militant struggles to achieve workers’ demands. In the textile belt of western region of Tamil Nadu, we have emerged as a trade union of militant and uncompromising struggles and are moving towards expansion among other segments of textile workers and in other areas of the region. Our work among powerloom workers and other sections of textile workers have gained significance in the context of export orientation and inhuman labour market conditions of the sector.

In Pondicherry too, our initiatives along with other trade unions have resulted in an unusual step of handing over of NTC mills, which were at the verge of dismantling, to the state government.

In UP, our work among handloom silk weavers and powerloom workers of Banaras is gaining momentum recently and the experience of organizing municipal workers of Allahabad is coming up with new challenges in the backdrop of policies of outsourcing of scavenging activities.

In Bihar , the State Government employees’ movement gained a significant victory of their demands in the run up to the state elections and is moving towards forming an all-India coordination of state government employees through an all-India convention in another few months. In Jharkhand, we are seriously trying for revitalizing our work among workers of coal and steel sector and concentrating our efforts at organizing the unorganized.

Some interesting experiences were shared by comrades from Maharashtra . They have succeeded in forcing employers either to abolish the labour contractor and raise wages as in Hindustan Lever Ltd Tea Company near Pune or forcing the company to raise OT wages as in the case of Bharat Forge where double the rates of wages are paid.

The conference decided that the central task is to bring the workers’ agenda to the center-stage of politics and to develop the working class as an independent political force. AICCTU also decided to unite with the struggles and aspirations of the agrarian labour and poor peasants and develop a strong bond with the ongoing democratic movement against oppression and other anti-people policies of the UPA regime.

The conference elected a National Council of 137 members and elected Comrade S.Kumarasamy as the President and Swapan Mukherjee as the General Secretary.

– Shankar