The National Convention of Workers — held at Jantar Mantar, New Delhi, on November 11 —gave a clarion call to the working classes of the country to prepare for a massive countrywide general strike during the forthcoming budget session in February 2022, under the common banner ‘Save the People and Save the Nation’. The all-important convention was called by the joint trade union platform comprising ten central trade unions — INTUC [Indian National Trade Union Congress], AITUC [All India Trade Union Congress], HMS [Hind Mazdoor Sabha], CITU [Centre of Indian Trade Unions], AIUTUC [All India United Trade Union Centre], TUCC [Trade Union Coordination Centre], SEWA [Self Employed Women’s Association], AICCTU [All India Central Council of Trade Unions], LPF [Labour Progressive Federation] and UTUC [United Trade Union Congress] — and almost all the independent sectoral federations and associations in the country.
In view of the Covid-19 pandemic and the associated restrictions on large-scale mobilisations, the trade unions respectfully decided to limit the participation to their state-level cadres and leaders, who would be taking the debated issues raised at the convention to their members and the workers in general. Although a mobilisation of only around 500 was permitted, many more workers and union leaders from all over the country, including from southern states like Tamil Nadu and Kerala, etc. ,joined in. Employees from many sectors, including insurance, banking, railways, telecom, as well as state and central government employees, in addition to industrial workers, scheme workers and unorganised sector workers — participated in the convention. Most crucially, the leaders of Samyukta Kisan Morcha spearheading the farmers’ struggle against the three farm laws, the Electricity Amendment Bill and for legally guaranteed MSPs — also attended the convention as guest observers.
The convention passed a resolution condoling the death of V Subbaraman, president of LPF, as well as the nearly 700 farmers who perished in the course of the ongoing farmers’ struggle, the thousands of workers, trade union leaders and cadres who have lost their lives due to Covid-19 during the pandemic and observed silence in their memory.
The ten central trade unions were represented by the following members in the presidium —Sanjay Singh (INTUC), Sukumar Damle (AITUC), Raja Sridhar (HMS) Hemalata (CITU), Ramesh Parashar (AIUTUC), Shiv Shankar (TUCC), Farida Jalees (SEWA), Shailendra Kumar Sharma (AICCTU), RK Maurya (LPF) and Nazim Hussain (UTUC). Copies of the draft declaration of the convention were circulated among all the delegates in English and Hindi. Ashok Singh, vice president of INTUC, Amarjeet Kaur, general secretary of AITUC, Harbhajan Singh Sidhu, general secretary of HMS, Tapan Sen, general secretary of CITU, Satyavan, national secretary of AIUTUC, G Devarajan, general secretary of TUCC, Sonia George, national secretary of SEWA, Rajiv Dimri, general secretary of AICCTU, JP Singh from LPF and Shatrujeet from UTUC gave rousing speeches supporting the Declaration.
All the speakers pegged their speeches to the ongoing historic farmers’ struggle and to the support and solidarity being extended by the workers from every corner of the country. The speakers called upon the delegates to carry out the demands of the convention up to the grassroots level through different joint activities mentioned in the Declaration and ensure blanket two-day strike in the whole country during the 2022 budget session. The dates of the strike are yet to be decided, but given the massive scale of the planned protests, the trade union leaders found it urgent to sound the call early and urged the delegates to start the campaign immediately upon returning to their hometowns.
Tapan Sen highlighted the interlocking significance of all the issues in the backdrop of the policies being adopted by the BJP-led Union government. He said the present BJP government led by Modi is not only “anti-worker, anti-peasant and anti-people” but it was also “anti-national”, handing over the country’s common wealth to big corporates, including foreign monopoly companies, for free or at throwaway prices. Sen called upon the delegates to take up the task of ‘Mission India’ to defeat the BJP, of which ‘Mission Uttar Pradesh’, ‘Mission Uttarakhand’ and ‘Mission Punjab’, would be integral parts. Sen called upon the delegates to strengthen such unity overcoming the machinations of the BJP and RSS to divide the workers and the people on the basis of religion, caste, language, etc., among other identities.
The Declaration was later passed unanimously after the presidium declared that the few suggestions from delegates on certain issues like NPS, rights of contractual workers, etc., would be eventually incorporated.
The demands adopted by the convention include:
- Scrapping of the labour codes
- Repeal of farm laws and Electricity (Amendment) Bill
- No to privatisation in any form and scrap the NMP
- Food and income support of Rs 7500 per month to non-income tax paying households
- Increased allocation for MNREGA and extension of Employment Guarantee Scheme to urban areas
- Universal social security for all informal sector workers
- Statutory minimum wage and social security for Anganwadi, ASHA, Mid-day-meal and other Scheme workers
- Proper protection and insurance facilities for frontline workers serving the people in the midst of pandemic
- Increase in public investment in agriculture, education, health and other crucial public utilities by taxing the rich through wealth tax etc in order to revive and revamp the national economy
- Reduction in central excise duty on petroleum products and concrete remedial measures to arrest price rise
. The convention adopted the following programme of action:
- Massive Demonstration on November 26, 2021 throughout the country on the completion of one year of last countrywide general strike against the anti-people and anti-national policy regime and the historic farmers march to Delhi. Effort should be made to coordinate with the peasants’ organisations to have joint demonstration wherever possible.
- State level joint conventions in all the states to plan for further joint activities including district/area level joint conventions during November/mid-December
- Joint meeting of public sector unions
- Intensive and extensive joint campaign against the policies up to the grassroots level through joint meetings, general body meetings, signature campaign and any other forms to be decided at state level during December, 2021 – January, 2022.
- State/district/sector level agitations through rallies, demonstrations, jathas, day-long dharna, multiple days mahapadav (continuous dharna) etc to rouse the people for strike action till Mid January 2022
- Two days countrywide general strike during the budget session of parliament in 2022.
The national convention called upon the working people and people in general to make the two-day countrywide general strike a massive success and come together under the slogan of “SAVE THE PEOPLE AND SAVE THE NATION”. (IPA Service)