IFTU, Trade Union

IFTU CALL on May Day 2019




“The first and great necessity of the present, to free labour from capitalist slavery, is the passing of a law by which 8 hours will be the normal working day.”This was the resolution passed in the Founding Convention of the National Labour Union in America in 1886, the year that witnessed a spate of workers struggles for shorter working day. Chicago became the epicentre of the militant workers movement and the incidents at the Hay Market square in the first days of May 1886 lead to the birth of May Day. A farce of a trial was conducted on the violent incidents and four were sentenced to death.   The four believed that capitalism was an evil system based on the exploitation of the working class for amassing wealth. They believed that it was this system that caused the immiserisation of the people and the terrible conditions in which the worker was placed. They contended that the struggle of the working class should be directed against this system, while fighting for shorter working hours. That is why they, while being sent to the gallows, stated that it was only socialism that secured a life of dignity for every human being. Fischer, Parson, Engels and Spies, firmly believed in socialism.  On the occasion of the 133rd May Day we salute these martyrs and those thousands and thousands of workers who bared their breast in the struggle for an eight hour working day.

In our country, working class will organize May Day programmes in the midst of general elections in which, as usual, huge promises are being made by ruling class parties to woo the people to vote for them. There were promises in the last 2014 elections too and the BJP-led NDA came to power. One of the promises was creation of jobs for the teeming millions of unemployed in the country. It was said that two crore jobs would be created per year but the reality is otherwise. In the last five years of BJP rule there has been an increase in the number of unemployed in the country. A report by CMIE states that in the year 2018 the number of people unemployed increased by 11 million. It stated that there were 407.9 million employed in 2017 but it came down to 397 million in 2018. It further said that 37 lakh salaried employees lost their jobs in the private sector. The NSSO Survey done between July 2017 and June 2018 concluded that the rate of unemployment in the country is at an all-time high at 6.1% highest since 1972-73. The surgical strike in the form of Demonetization in November, 2016 by Modi had only led to job losses in the garment, textile, automobile and tannery sectors and in small units. Small traders were hit hard. Demonetization and GST have caused job losses and not generation of any employment. Labour intensive sectors like Jute, Beedi have seen decline in jobs and work days. Self-employment, which constitutes a significant chunk in overall employment, was also hit hard in this period. The data of the EPFO also punctures the claim of job creation. Yet, Arun Jaitley raises a rather stupid question to support the claim of job creation under the NDA rule when he asks, “If there was no job creation in the country why do we not see social unrest which would have been there.”

While unemployment and job losses are causes of serious concern to the people, a feature in the employment structure of the economy is the increasing trend towards employment on contract or on temporary basis. In many sectors of the economy it is this segment of the workforce that constitutes half or more than half of the total workers employed. Low wages, deplorable work conditions and job insecurity are issues confronting this large pool of workers engaged in both public and private sectors. On 16-03-2018, the NDA government issued a notification to incorporate Fixed Term Employment in the Industrial Standing Orders which is another form of contractualization of labour. Earlier this form of employment was confined to the garment, leather and textile sectors but now it is extended to all sectors. One of the stipulations in this kind of employment is to allow easy termination of workers without any notice or notice pay. This is one of the gifts to Capital by the Modi government that suits the needs of the capitalists to realize labour flexibility. It has already begun the process of tailoring the labour laws in the service of native big capital and foreign capital. Welfare of workers has also come under attack in the last five years.

In the last five years there has been an increase in the number of industrial accidents and in all such incidents it is the workers who are victims. The fifteen miners holed up in a 370 feet deep coal mine in Meghalaya on 13 December2018, the boiler explosion on November 12017 at Unchahar power plant of NTPC in UP claiming the lives of 43 and the various accidents in industrial areas, in construction sector demonstrate the utter neglect in implementing safety measures.

Since the last May Day in 2018, many countries in the world witnessed a spate of workers struggles like the Yellow Vests movement in France that is an expression against neo-liberal policies of the rulers. In our country too, there have been mobilizations of workers against the policies of the powers that be. On the occasion of the 133rd May Day let us once again pledge to hold aloft the banner of struggle and reiterate our commitment to the cause of building a society that the martyrs of the Chicago struggle dreamt.

National Committee