LABOUR

AICCTU's November Campaign

[ Here we reproduce a campaign folder by AICCTU for its nationwide campaign among the unorganised sector/construction workers in November ]

Make AICCTU's 13th November Demonstration before Parliament a Big Success!

Fight for Social Security & Dignity! March Ahead for a Better Life!

On 25th August, a violent attack on migrant workers in Ludhiana , Punjab was unleashed by the Punjab police and district administration. The protesting workers were sent to jail for fighting for their legitimate rights. In another incident, 2 days earlier, two construction workers died under the debris of a wall that collapsed accidentally. No compensation whatsoever was granted. Bangle workers of Firozabad , Uttar Pradesh were targeted for quite some time by the UP administration and on 29th July, the UP police beat them up mercilessly and put their leaders in jail under the UP Gangster Act. A number of workers died in an accident in Gangtikuli Mine, Purulia, in West Bengal due to the criminal negligence of the administration. Several such incidents happened in different parts of the country, like the attack on Liberty Shoe workers, Honda workers and others. Every time the main target of the State administration was (and continues to be) the unorganised/informal workforce of India comprising the construction sector, agricultural workers, private security sector, unorganised and informal industrial sectors as well as the organised/government sector where they work chiefly as contractual/casual workers. This in fact is 93% of the total workforce of our country numbering around 37 crore.

The workers of this vast segment have neither any social/individual identity or respect and they are always treated as second grade citizens of our country. They are mostly migrants, who are forced to move for employment from place to place, particularly from Bihar , eastern parts of Uttar Pradesh, and other poor states. While contending with all kinds of social discrimination, these workers are forced to work below minimum wages, for more than the stipulated time period and also, work as forced bonded labour. In the last ten years, after the Construction Workers' Act was passed, only three state governments, i.e., Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Delhi have constituted welfare boards for the construction workers.

They are the most deprived sections of the Indian Working class who face the twin attack of globalisation and liberalisation. They are the workers who have the potential to take the struggles to newer heights and ignite a fresh wave of working class struggle in the country.

AICCTU has resolved to organise these vast segments of the working class and bring them to the centre of the working class movement. AICCTU has already started its work among the construction workers and is playing a pivotal role in organising them in different states like Delhi , Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Punjab and Tamil Nadu. In Bihar and Rajasthan, owing to the agitational role of the AICCTU in organising mass movements, the laws pertaining to the protection of rights of the construction workers are being somewhat implemented and the process of welfare board formation has begun. The other important initiatives launched are among the contractual bus drivers in the Delhi Transport Corporation, contract and casual workers in government departments in various states and the unorganised workers who work in the coal industry of Jharkhand state. AICCTU now initiates a mass campaign among these different segments of unorganised /contractual workers to make the nationwide strike on 14th December a grand success.

The role of the UPA Government

The UPA government is not serious on addressing the issues of social and economic oppression of workers. They are not sincere towards their commitment in the "Common Minimum Programme" where they promised to look after the welfare and economic/social security of the unorganised workers. On the other hand, they are clearing the deck for the multinational as well as Indian corporates to loot the Indian working class. Around 200 proposals for special economic zones have been cleared till date (and more SEZs are still being cleared) and the Finance Ministry of the same government reports that the exchequer has lost 1 lakh crore in 2006 because of the sops given to the SEZs. The SEZs are the modern industrial ghettos in 'civilized' India where the workers are treated like bonded labourers.

The UPA Government now seems to be preparing to bring forth a bill titled 'Unorganised Sector Social Security Bill, 2006' relating to the social security of the unorganised sector workers in the upcoming winter session. The bill was prepared by the National Commission for Enterprises in the Unorganised Sector, an organisation of employers.

According to the act proposed by the bill, the workers who earn below Rs. 5000 are eligible for health insurance, maternity benefit, life-insurance and old-age pension. All the unorganised/informal sector workers are eligible to register under this proposed act and they need to contribute Re. 1 per day along with the government and the employer to get their minimal social security benefits. The contribution of the govt. for the unorganised sector workers' social security amounts to even less than 1% of the GDP.

AICCTU is not satisfied with the nature of this proposed bill and has sent several suggestions to the Labour Ministry for revision of the same. AICCTU also prepares to campaign for a just social security bill commensurate to the needs of the workers of this sector working under hazardous conditions without any social security cover whatsoever. On the other hand, the govt. is silent over the issue of tabling "Unorganised Sector Workers (Condition of Work and Livelihood Promotion)" Bill. Without simultaneously tabling the latter Bill and through it guaranteeing the rights of Minimum wages, Employment security, 8-hr working day, etc., the Social Security Bill loses its real objective.

AICCTU will prominently raise the following demands in the upcoming November campaign:

1. AICCTU demands that both the "Social Security" Bill and the "Unorganised Sector Workers (Condition of Work and Livelihood Promotion)" Bill should be simultaneously tabled in the upcoming winter session of the Parliament.

2. UPA government should reserve at least 3% of the GDP for the social security of the unorganised/informal workers.

3. UPA government should bear the administrative expenses of the Bill for first 5 years. The govt. should not take workers' participatory contribution (proposed as Re.1/- per day per worker) rather bear it on its own.

4. Minimum fundamental benefits including health insurance, maternity benefit, life-insurance and old-age pension should be included in the proposed Act.

6. All the Acts relating to the unorganised sector workers including ID Act, Factory Act and others should be implemented together with the Welfare Act.

7. The machinery responsible for dispute redressal should be specified and the related clause should be incorporated within the proposed Act.

8. The Construction Workers Welfare Act should be implemented compulsorily in all the states.

9. Government should constitute a National Commission for inter-state migrant workers.

10. Immediately enact the Urban Employment Guarantee Bill to cover the urban unemployed.

11. Bring in a separate Comprehensive legislation for the Agricultural workers.

 

Besides these, the campaign will also raise other demands including local demands for construction workers and other sections of the unorganised sector workers, like multi-purpose identity cards with validity throughout the country, regularisation of contract workers, raising the pension amount to Rs.1500/- for construction workers, etc.

AICCTU calls upon its rank and file to accept the challenge of organising the workers of this vast unorganised sector and make the campaign a success.

Ardhendu Roy & Rajiv Dimri