Central government derecognises two major postal-unions for supporting farmers’ movement


  • April 30, 2023
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The central government, in a draconian move, has derecognized two left- affiliated postal employees’ unions on frivolous grounds of  making “political donations”, which includes contributing Rs 30,000 to the farmers’ movement against the three farm laws. The high handed and undemocratic action of the central government, at the behest of the ruling RSS-BJP dispensation, is a brazen attack on the rights of the workers and employees to unionise, writes Anish Khanna.

 

 

The Indian government has withdrawn the recognition of two major postal unions, the All India Postal Employees Union (AIPEU) and the National Federation of Postal Employees (NFPE). The order derecognizing the two left-affiliated employees’ unions was passed on Wednesday, April 26. The government has accused the two unions of funding the farmers’ agitation against the three Central farm laws, buying books from CPI(M) office and contributing money to CITU’s fund. Both the unions were blacklisted after the Bharatiya Postal Employees Association, an affiliate of the RSS’ Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh, filed a complaint against them for “funding a political party.” The order cancelling the registration of the unions mentioned various amounts paid from the AIPEU account – Rs 30,000 for the farmers’ movement, Rs 4,935 to the CPI(M) for purchase of books, and a donation of Rs 50,000 to CITU. 

 

“The act of political donations was in contravention of Rule 5(b), Rule 5(h) and Rule 6(c) of CCS (RSA) Rules, 1993,” the government order said. The central service rules lay down that the employees’ associations have been formed primarily with the objective of promoting the interests of their members and prohibits the use of union funds to further any type of political activities. 

 

The AIPEU, established in Kolkata in 1920, is one of the oldest unions in India. The NFPE is the largest federation in the postal sector, with eight postal employee unions, including the AIPEU, affiliated with it. NFPE and AIPEU have a glorious legacy of fighting against the British imperialist forces, and are currently opposing the attempts by the RSS-BJP-led Union government to dismantle public sector postal services and corporatise them.

 

Governmental moves such as the current one must be seen in the context of the fact that there is immense pressure from the corporates and crony capitalists supporting and financing the current fascist government to hasten labour reforms and implement the labour codes. But the central government has till now been unable to persuade or force the state governments to frame rules under the codes. The labour codes, in a nutshell,  are meant to take away the rights of the workers and employees to unionise at workplaces. It is precisely in this context that the farmers’ movement acquires a symbolic political value – the state-corporate nexus suffered a somewhat spectacular defeat at the hands of the farmers when they tried to corporatize the Indian agricultural sector. The farmers’ movement not only forced the central government to repeal the three farm laws, but also attempted to build unity of the peasants with the working classes, so as to collectively challenge the onslaught of the corporates. The ruling classes, unnerved by the possibility of such an alliance of the peasants and workers from taking roots, tactfully retreated, with the Prime Minister announcing a repeal of the farm laws, and at the same time apologising to his cronies for the decision.  

 

So, the move to cancel the registration of the two major postal employees’ unions on frivolous grounds is part of a well thought out conspiracy, hatched by the concerned ministry and other state agencies of the government. The move is directly linked to the Narendra Modi government’s policy of privatisation and corporatisation of public sectors in the country. With the general elections coming up next year, the government needs to placate the corporates, who have most loyally supported all its socially divisive and communal agendas. It is a signal to the corporates that the government is now ready to take on the left trade unions so as to completely silence the opposition of workers and employees to its pro-corporate and anti-worker policies. The black listing of the two major left-affiliated unions in the largest public sector through dubious means is also to establish the hegemony of the RSS amongst the government employees and workers. In a referendum held in 2014, NFPE got 75% votes from the employees, while the Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh (BMS) supported union received support from less than 5% of the employees. BMS is not in a situation to improve its performance in the next referendum scheduled in 2024.

 

The NFPE and AIPEU have consistently opposed and mobilised postal sector employees against the corporatisation and privatisation of India’s postal services. Recently, NFPE organised a one-day strike against privatisation of postal services and demanded restoration of the old pension scheme. The left trade unions are still a thaw in the path of the government’s policies to sell off all national assets and resources to its crony corporates. The trade unions have been trying to block the government’s policies at every stage of the process. The central government has now responded to this opposition by directly targeting the left-affiliated central trade unions. The government’s intentions are clear. Just like Hitler in Germany and Mussolini in Italy, the RSS-BJP view these trade unions as thaws in the path of establishing a Hindu Rashtra, and they need to be weeded out by hook or crook. The derecognition of the NFPE and AIPEU is the first step in that direction. Now it is up to the trade unions to decide on how to counter this attack.

 

Central trade unions have condemned the central government order and defended the two postal unions contributing money to the farmers’ movement as a standard trade union practice of extending support and solidarity to the struggling fraternal unions and democratic peoples’ movement. They contended that the amount paid to CPI(M) was part of a personal transaction. The money paid to CITU was the affiliation fee payable to World Federation of Trade Unions (WFTU) and it was routed through CITU, which is also a fellow affiliate of WFTU.

 

True to their revisionist trade union politics, CITU and AITUC, two of the largest central trade unions under the control of CPI(M) and CPI respectively, have so far only issued statements, condemning the central government’s action, instead of announcing mass action programs of the workers and employees. A statement released by CITU said, “It is nothing but the patently draconian actions of the government to silence the opposition of workers and employees to its destructive and anti-worker policies.” It described the vindictive attack as an integral part of the overall onslaughts being carried on by the corporate-communal nexus in governance on the rights and entitlements of the employees and workers and their organisations. No call of mobilising the workers and employees of various sectors and declaring mass actions to resist the attack has been announced by it so far. CITU has only extended support to the protest struggles being organised by the postal and central govt employees.

 

In a similar tone, AITUC – the labour wing of the CPI- too has issued a statement condemning the move to derecognise AIPEU and NFPE as “blatant vindictiveness and biasness” of the Union government towards a union “which has got an established and verified membership of more than 70%.” 

  

All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS), All India Bank Employees’ Association (AIBEA) and many others too have issued statements of condemnation and urged the central government to revoke its decision. AIBEA said, “this action of derecognition, quoting certain rules framed by the Dept/Govt, not any laws, is aimed at destroying a trade union having the support of the vast majority of employees and fighting for safeguarding Postal Services against privatisation”. The national meeting of Samyukta Kisan Morcha (SKM) held in Delhi on 31 April, 2023, adopted a resolution condemning the derecognition of the postal unions. SKM expressed solidarity with the unions and demanded that the-recognition of the unions be withdrawn. “We look forward to increased worker peasant unity against the anti-farmer, anti-worker BJP government”, said SKM. 

 

Meanwhile, the Confederation of Central Government Employees and Workers has called on the employees to organize protest, demonstrations in front of Central Government offices on 2 May, 2023.

  

But will such ritualistic condemnation statements and token protests and demonstrations in the absence of militant struggle of the workers and employees have any effect on the state and capital’s multi-fronted attacks? If recent history of trade union practice of token demonstrations, sloganeering at work places and annual national strikes are anything to go by, the answer is clearly no. The reality on the ground is that successive attacks on workers and employees, both at the macro policy level and at the workplaces, are going on without any effective resistance by the trade unions. The truth is, the trade unions, as a whole, have come to confine the workers’ and employees’ struggles within the narrowest of the narrow legal and economic terms. Within these confines of economism, trade union struggles have benefitted permanent workers and employees to a certain extent, through wage increase and bargaining other economic demands. In case of the attack on postal unions too, we will see a few protests and demonstrations by the employees’ unions. We will also probably witness, at best, another one-day token strike. Ultimately, the unions will take the legal route, go to the courts with the hope of getting justice, rather than resisting the latest attack by the state-corporate nexus by politically mobilising the workers and employees and unleashing the fury of class-struggle on the powers at large. 

 

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