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Democratic Rights of Workers across the Country are under Threat : AK Padmanabhan

Newsclick Report

Central trade unions have decided to observe a day long protest against the government’s indifference to its 12 point charter of demands. Trade unions are of the view that the government has done very little to resolve the issues raised by the unions time and again.

Newsclick interviewed A K Padmanabhan, president, Centre Of Indian Trade Unions (CITU) on the protest as well as the demands of the trade unions. According to him, "The government is taking away rights of workers by way of executive orders and directing state governments to carry out such pro-management amendments. Conditions of workers across the country is deteriorating drastically. “ Excerpts from the interview.



Q. Trade unions have called for a day long protest on March 10. What are the main demands and what you expect to be the outcome of this protest?

Trade unions have raised a 12 point charter of demands and after the September 2nd strike, it was decided that we would intensify our campaign to meet the demands raised. We raised these issues in the pre-budget interaction with the government as well. On 27th January we decided that our struggles should continue to meet the demands in the 12 point charter. The protest is a part of those campaigns. We have also called a national convention of trade unions on March 30th to work out the future programs. Democratic rights of workers across the country are under threat.

Q. The demands have been raised by the trade unions time and again. But the government has been lukewarm in its response…

The government has not been sympathetic to the demands that the trade unions have been raising to improve the conditions of the workers across the country. And moreover, the 12 point charter is not just addressing the concerns of the workers. It has implication on everyone’s lives. We have raised the issue of price rise, dismantling of the public distribution system, job protection amongst others. 

The government has shown no interest in addressing these issues. They are going ahead with disinvestments of public sector and calling it strategic sale, executive orders are being issued to make changes in industrial laws, foreign investments in strategic sectors is getting more prominence in the government’s policies. This indicates that the government is least bothered about the conditions of common man in the country.

Q. There have been conscious efforts by companies to prevent unionization in factories. How is this going to impact in protecting the rights of workers?

There has been a constant attack on the democratic rights of workers in the country. There are many places, particularly in the new industrial belts, whether its Gurgaon, Manesar, Pune or Alwar, workers are not being allowed to organize for their rights. Many resent events, including the one at Maruti, is a result of this. Such actions by the managements, aided by the government, lead to industrial turmoil. Many companies have also now started a new exercise. Contract workers are not hired from the same area so that there are no commonalities amongst the workers. Workers are hired in batches and are removed from services after the completion of their terms. And many have been told that the terms will be extended, which will lead to an eventual confirmation of job, if their conduct is appropriate. Even before workers organize to demand, efforts are being made by the management to crush them. In the name of social engineering, attempts are on to crush the democratic rights of workers.

Q. The resent initiative by the government to tax EPF, which was eventually withdrawn after protests from many quarters, is also a step in this direction. How do you view this?

The government was forced to withdraw this proposal. This shows that the government policy is to attack the savings of workers. If implemented, such a proposal has got a much wider implication that just for workers.

This is a part of the government’s agenda of finishing off the EPF and other social security schemes like ESI. In the Budget proposals last year, government had declared that workers are ‘hostages’ and not ‘clientele’ to the EPF and ESI Schemes. Finance Minister had proposed that the PF Subscribers be given an option to switch over to NPS and ESI subscribers be given an option to switch over to medical insurance policies.

The government aims to fully utilize the EPF corpus to play up the stock market. It is not only the EPF savings but all savings, in banks and other financial institutions are to be taken to the market to quench the ‘thirst’ of finance capital. 

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are the author's personal views, and do not necessarily represent the views of Newsclick.

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