Wednesday 7 August 2019

Challenges before 32nd AIC of AIPEU, Group-C

= Bruhaspati Samal =
Circle Secretary, AIPEU, Gr-C 
Leader, RJCM (Staff Side), Odisha 

Comrades! AIPEU, Group-C, the major constituent of National Federation of Postal Employees, the biggest Federation of the largest postal network of the world is going to conduct its 32nd All India Conference from 20th to 22nd October, 2019 in Hyderabad in a very crucial moment when the BJP led NDA Govt. has come to power for the second time in a row with uniform majority headed by Sj. Narendra Modi as the 16th Prime Minister of India since 30th May, 2019 and has accelerated its arbitrary move for corporatizing the Central Govt. establishments including amendment of labour laws undermining the rights of the employees and workers and favouring the employers and corporate world.

You might be aware that Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Man Ki Baat which was last aired on 24th February, 2019 before the commencement of Lok Sabha Election was again returned and the first episode of the second term (Man Ki Baat 2.0) was aired on 30th June, 2019. While going through the live updates of Man Ki Baat 2.0, we came across with the following version of our Hon’ble Prime Minister.

“We realize the importance of ‘democratic rights’ when they are taken away. During the emergency, people realized that ‘something’ was snatched”.

But in contradiction, now we feel that all the democratic rights of the employees and workers of the country are being snatched away one by one. What had not been done earlier especially before 2014 are now being implemented gradually and almost all the Central Govt. establishments are heading towards corporatization and privatization including the Department of Posts and the benefits which we were / are enjoying as the Central Govt. employees and workers are being snatched away one after another. As if there is an undeclared emergency.  

The retrograde recommendations of 7th CPC have snatched away the allowances and advances with worst ever pay hike. The written assurances given to the NJCA leaders through a Press Release on 30.06.2016 has been dropped on the floor of the Parliament stating that there is no proposal pending before the Govt either to hike the minimum pay or revise the fitment formula. The social security of the young generation employed after 01.01.2004 has been snatched away in the name of New Pension Scheme. The future of the unemployed mass is put on hold by not filling up of lakhs of vacant posts in various Govt. establishments. The hurried implementation of I T Modernization Project in India Post with inadequate and outdated hardware, improper software and shortage of manpower has taken away the concept of fixed duty hours, mental peace and social relationships of the employees. The sluggish connectivity with continuous link failure has stood on the way of prompt and effective service delivery inviting public anger and converting post offices the unhealthiest workplace now a days. The continuous pressure of the administration for achieving the unachievable targets has done away with so many lives of the employees. Though we are continuously struggling for settlement of the above issues, we have failed seriously for which we have to revisit our lapses in the coming 32nd AIC.

Really, we apprehend, if it is the Hon’ble Prime Minister’s national aspiration for a ‘New India’ where the only ambition is to think to reform and perform in order to transform which was communicated by Hon’ble Minister Communications to the officers of India Post in the annual Heads of the Circles Conference held at Srinagar from 29th to 31st July, 2019 adopting a 100 Days Action Plan and a Five Year Vision to align the Department of Posts with the Prime Minister’s ‘New India’ initiative.

The important decisions taken during the HoC conference, inter alia include converting the India Post Payments Bank (IPPB) into a Small Finance Bank (SFB) to provide micro credit at the doorsteps to individuals and SME’s, targeting the milestone of one crore accounts for IPPB in 100 days and restructuring the Postal Life Insurance and Rural Postal Life Insurance business of the Department into a fully regulated Strategic Business Unit (SBU) registered as a company as per the requirement of IRDA.  

The decisions taken as above are nothing but a policy of the Govt. for direct implementation of the retrograde recommendations of the Task Force Committee headed by Shri T.S.R. Subramaian Ex. Cabinet Secretary which submitted its report in Novemeber-2014 recommending to divide India Post in to six Strategic Business Units (SBU) i.e. (i) Banking and financial services (ii) Insurance  (PLI/RPLI), (iii) Distribution of third party products (Services on behalf of private  parties on payment basis), (iv) Management of Govt. services (v) Parcel & Packets and (vi) communication delivery.

As you know, the 1st SBU has already come into floor in the name of IPPB since 01.09.2018. Now the 2nd SBU will be restructured with PLI and RPLI. Thus there is every point of apprehension that by the end of this term from 2019 to 2024, all the 5 SBUs will be constituted and the Department will be fully corporatized. Though we have protested and are protesting such corporatize move of the Govt, we have not yet succeeded. The coming 32nd AIC is the right platform to analyze our deficiencies.

On 23.07.2019, the Government introduced the Code on Wages Bill, 2019 to amend and consolidate the laws relating to wages and bonus and matters connected therewith and the Code on Occupational Safety, Health and Working Conditions Bill, 2019 in Lok Sabha to amend the laws regulating the Occupational Safety, Health and Working Conditions of the persons employed in an establishment. Now the Code on Wages Bill, 2019 subsumes relevant provisions of The Minimum Wages Act, 1948, The Payment of Wages Act, 1936, The Payment of Bonus Act, 1965 and The Equal Remuneration Act, 1976. The Code on Wages Bill, 2019 has already been passed in Lok Sabha on 30.07.2019 in Rajya Sabha on 02.08.2019. The Bill will become as an Act after Presidential assent. It will be the first Code to become an Act out of the four Codes.
Similarly, the Code on Occupational Safety, Health and Working Conditions Bill, 2019 has been drafted after amalgamation, simplification and rationalisation of the relevant provisions of the 13 Central Labour Acts viz. The Factories Act, 1948;The Mines Act, 1952;The Dock Workers (Safety, Health and Welfare) Act, 1986 ;The Building and Other Construction Workers (Regulation of Employment and Conditions of Service) Act, 1996 -,The Plantations Labour Act, 1951; The Contract Labour (Regulation and Abolition) Act, 1970; The Inter-State Migrant workmen (Regulation of Employment and Conditions of Service) Act, 1979; The Working Journalist and other News Paper Employees (Conditions of Service and Misc. Provision) Act, 1955; The Working Journalist (Fixation of rates of wages) Act, 1958; The Motor Transport Workers Act, 1961; Sales Promotion Employees (Condition of Service) Act, 1976; The Beedi and Cigar Workers (Conditions of Employment)Act, 1966 and The Cine Workers and Cinema Theatre Workers Act, 1981. After the enactment of the Code, all these Acts being subsumed in the Code will be repealed.  
As is evident, in the name of simplifying labour laws, this is a pre-planned attack of the present Government on the entire working class. All the workers from the lowest paid to the highest, from those who live in villages to those in metropolitan cities, from those who work in the smallest of farms, fields and inside households to those who work in the most modern factories and offices will be affected with such arbitrary amendment.  The Government’s own description of the Bills is evidence enough that it favours employers. The failure to implement labour laws over the last 25 years has been the most significant route through which workers’ rights have been undermined. All trade unions have long been demanding that non-payment of minimum wages and such other violations of basic rights be made cognizable offences. Rather than responding to this, the Bills actually remove deterrents including the attachment of property in cases on non-compliance. Both Bills also clearly define the responsibility of the labour contractor as final. This is an important departure which takes away the key responsibility of the principal employer for payment of wages and other benefits including bonus; as also the criminal liability for workplace accidents and deaths. There is one law for the rich and for big companies and another for ordinary citizens. In a violation of Article 14 of the constitution – the fundamental right to equality under law – the government is seeking to grant the executive power to define how a company’s profits are to be computed. This will affect every worker in the country not only in terms of bonus payments but also, at the lowest end, in minimum wages as employers will make claims on the ability to pay owing to low profitability. 

This apart, the Govt, is now quite curious for imposition of FR – 56 (J).  As per a reply of the Minister, Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions  to Lok Sabha Unstarred Question No. 5182, dated 24.07.2019, for the period from July 2014 to May 2019, a total of 36756 Group-A and 82654 Group-B officers have been reviewed  under F R – 56 (J) and similar provision under Rule-48 of CCS (CCA) Pension Rules, 1972 and Rule 16 (3) of All India Services (Death—Cum-Retirement Benefits) [AIS (DCRB)] Rules, 1958, out of which the provisions have been invoked  / recommended against 125 Group-A and 187 Group-B Officers.

Besides, as Group-C officials, we have our own several sectional issues.

Under the circumstances, when the existence of this largest postal network of the world is at stake and our democratic rights are being snatched away in name of reformation, the coming 32nd AIC puts several challenges before us and as such, at this critical juncture, our participation, role and contribution in the coming 32nd AIC will certainly have a definite importance in determining suitable strategies to save the nation and safeguarding the interest of employees and workers. This is not just a Conference to rejoice ourselves but to rebuild India and India Post. 

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