India has been witnessing a systematic weakening of Trade Unionism by the ruling establishment through adoption of labour policies that push the workers more and more into unorganized sector. The unprecedented sufferings that the COVID-19 crisis brought for the working class has made them accepting low-quality jobs that pay too low a wage to survive with dignity sans any social security coverage. Working class protested it throughout the year 2023, and they are now gearing up for stiffer protests ahead.
Everybody can see that trade unionism in the country is not strong enough to protect the workers and their rights, though strong trade unions are needed now more than ever to build a world of work founded on sustainable development that ensures decent work for all, asserts the International Labour Organization (ILO).
The Union Government has been pursuing a policy that is not only anti-worker but also anti-trade-unionism. It is intended to only benefit the employers at the cost of workers. A structural change is being brought in the world of work, that has increased the size of unorganized sector that now have about 94 per cent of the total workforce in the country. Organized sector is left with only 6 per cent of the total workforce in India.
No wonder, all trade unions together in the country have less than only 7 per cent of the total workers as their members. It goes without saying that trade unions have presence chiefly in the organized sector, and only a little presence among the workers of unorganized sector. It has made trade union actions almost ineffective.
To further weaken trade unionism, the ruling establishment follows a policy that enables the organized sector to shift their permanent quality salaried jobs to informal and unorganized ones. It is being implemented at all levels – the primary sector which includes agriculture and mining, the secondary sector which includes manufacturing, and tertiary sector which includes services. All are marked by rise in informalization, contract workers, outsourced workers, gig workers, fixed term employment workers, apprentices and so on. The process, though had begun in 1991 through economic globalization and liberalization, has been turning worse since advent of Narendra Modi as prime minister of this country in 2014.
The General Council meeting of AITUC in Tiruppur in Tamil Nadu, held during 22-24 September 2023 has noted this and given a call to organize the unorganized. It should be noted that AITUC had only a limited success so far in organizing the scheme workers, such as Anganwadi, ASHA, Midday Meal Workers, UMED Workers, Domestic Workers, Construction Workers, Hawkers, Local Body Workers, Panchayat Workers, and so on. However, most of the informal sector workers are unorganized.
Trade unionism needs to be reinvented, and the AITUC has focused on its importance. “We will have to innovate ways to unionise those who are hard pressed to keep their scars employment in the swirling waters of unemployment; if meeting them at the factory gates, as has been the practice so far, puts their employment at risk, we will have to go to their busties. They will have to be shown that their strength lies in their sheer number, unionised, they will be invincible,” it has resolved.
“We could begin by amending our respective constitutions to allow membership of contract workers, outsourced workers etc. We could make an activist of our union, if possible, responsible for bringing contract workers into the union fold. Each Public Sector Union be mandated to start organising contract workers in their respective establishment. Some of the unions in public sector establishments have shown the way by putting their might behind the struggling contract workers. Let us emulate their example so that we can rightfully claim the legacy of our fighting forefathers,” the resolution read.
In pursuance of the call given in the August 24, 2023 in the historical All India Joint Convention of Workers and Farmers, workers and farmers observed October 3 as Black Day, demanding dismissal and prosecution of the alleged conspirator, the Union Minister of State for Home Affairs Ajay Mishra Teni, of Lakhimpur Kheri massacre of farmers in 2021.
It was decided in the joint convention to campaign against the RSS-BJP government of the Centre and in states. Workers and farmers are silently campaigning against the BJP in the poll bound five states where elections are announced to be held during this festive season, possibly to get benefit from the religious gatherings. Elections will be held in the month of November. BJP therefore would almost escape the intense workers movement this time beginning from the last week of November through December 2023 and January 2024. However, it is likely to impact the forthcoming Lok Sabah election 2024.
“Oust BJP-RSS from the seat of power” is their slogan, because they believe PM Modi pursuing anti-worker, anti-farmer, and pro-corporate policies. Workers and farmers will be organizing Day and Night Mahapadav Struggle in front of the Governors’ houses in state capitals across the county and Union Territories from 26 to 28 November that will mark the November 26, 2020, the day of all India General strike by workers at the first day of the historic March to Parliament by Farmers. Determined and massive united protest actions are scheduled across the country in December 2023, and January 2024. It is the part of commitment to carry forward the decisions of January 30, 2023 National Convention of Workers and the August 24 call by their All India Joint Convention.
All India Bank Employees Association has also called for strike action in all Banks across the country with the schedule – 4th December: All India Strike in PNB, Punjab &Sind Bank & SBI; 5th December: All India Strike in Bank of Baroda and Bank of India ; 6th December: All India Strike in Canara Bank and Central Bank of India;7th December: All India Strike in Indian Bank and UCO Bank; 8th December: All India Strike in Union Bank of India and Bank of Maharashtra; 11th December: All India Strike in all Private Banks; 2nd January Strike by all employees of all Banks in Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Karnataka, Puducherry, Andaman & Nicobar, Lakshadweep; 3rd January Strike by all employees of all Banks in Gujarat, Maharashtra, Goa, Dadar, Daman, Diu; 4th January Strike by all employees of all Banks in Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh ; 5th January Strike by all employees of all Banks in Delhi Punjab, Haryana, J & K, Ladakh, Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh ; 6thJanuary West Bengal, Odisha, Bihar, Jharkhand, Assam, Tripura, Meghalaya, Manipur, Nagaland, Mizoram, Arunachal Pradesh, Sikkim ; 19th & 20th January 2024: 2Days Continuous All India Strike in all Banks.
Their chief demand is adequate recruitment in Banks. In recent years, they say their workload has been multiplied to the unbearable level due to shortage of staff, but further recruitment has been stopped. It is adversely affecting their performance unwarrantedly resulting in friction and complaints from the customers. They are also opposing the moves for privatization of public sector Banks. (IPA Service)