Rediff.com  » Business » First time in 5 yrs BMS rejects call by other unions for nationwide strike

First time in 5 yrs BMS rejects call by other unions for nationwide strike

By Somesh Jha
November 25, 2020 14:40 IST
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The ten central trade unions have demanded a cash transfer of Rs 7,500 a month to all families that do not pay income tax, free ration of 10 kg per head in a month to all the needy, expansion of the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment scheme to cover more days of job, withdrawal of labour codes and farm bills, halt on privatisation, universal pension coverage and withdrawal of “draconian" circular on forced premature retirement of government officials.

The RSS-affiliated Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh (BMS) has shunned a call from 10 central trade unions to join them in a nationwide strike to be held on November 26, as it found it to be “politically-motivated.”

“Though we agree that some of the initiatives of the government are not in tune with our demands, but referring the government as anti-national seems ridiculous and unreasonable.

 

"The issues raised by you need further briefing and deliberations,” BMS general secretary Binoy Kumar Sinha said in a letter dated November 23.

This comes as a significant development as it was the first time since the BMS broke ranks with other national trade unions in 2015 that an initiative was taken to bridge the gap between the unions.

On November 17, the Congress-affiliated Indian National Trade Union Congress president G Sanjeeva Reddy had written to the BMS, on behalf of ten central trade unions, urging it to join the general strike on November 26 called to agitate upon the new labour and farm bills, among other issues.

In a rare instance in past five years, the letter had praised the BMS for being actively associated with various agitations.

“We thank you for recognising BMS’ role in the workers’ cause. In the meantime, we would like to assert that BMS is of the firm belief that as a trade union we must confine ourselves to the areas of workers’ interest, that’s our primary responsibility instead of venturing into larger issues like farmers’ issues and students’ protests in general society, while so much remains to be addressed on our own fronts,” Sinha said in the letter addressed to Reddy.

The BMS said that the major challenge to the workers come from “state government belonging to different political parties which have already changed labour laws worse than the Central government (did).”

“Trade unions should not forget to fight against them, too, instead of selectively targeting only the Ccentral Government,” Sinha added.

In a rare instance of a prominent central trade union breaking ranks with other labour unions, the BMS had decided not to take part in an industrial strike which was held on September 2, 2015.

Pulling out at the last minute, the BMS had said it was satisfied with the government’s response to their demands.

Till date, a total of four nationwide strikes have been organised by all trade unions and the BMS has not participated in any of them.

It has instead organised its own strikes and dharnas on various issues related to the working class.

It was in 2009 when the national trade unions had arrived at a joint platform with those affiliated to the Left, the Congress, the RSS and other independent unions deciding to join hands to raise common set of issues.

In its letter, the BMS made it clear that it has welcomed most of the provisions in two out of four labour codes and has flagged specific issues in the new laws.

“Despite the fact that experts all over have opined that the 4 codes are just copy-pasted compilations of existing labour laws, the demand to withdraw them in toto needs re-thinking for we have been living with them for the last few decades,” Sinha said.

However, the BMS said that it would be able to work with “greater synchronicity” once workers’ issues take a centrestage, highlighting how the union has been actively working with other unions in different sectors to raise workers’ issues.

The ten central trade unions have demanded a cash transfer of Rs 7,500 a month to all families that do not pay income tax, free ration of 10 kg per head in a month to all the needy, expansion of the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment scheme to cover more days of job, withdrawal of labour codes and farm bills, halt on privatisation, universal pension coverage and withdrawal of “draconian" circular on forced premature retirement of government officials.

Ten central trade unions to BMS:

"In recent meetings, we noted with appreciation that the BMS unions and federations are actively associated in some of sector-level agitations...The joint platform of 10 unions decided to request BMS to join the general strike on November 26."

BMS to other unions:

"As a trade union, we must confine ourselves to the areas of workers’ interest, instead of venturing into larger issues like farmers’ issues and students’protests, while so much remains to be addressed on our own fronts."

Photograph: PTI Photo

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Somesh Jha
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