BMS calls Budget 2018 'anti-labour'; to boycott Modi's speech at ILC

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley
The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS)-affiliated Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh has threatened to boycott the Indian Labour Conference (ILC), saying their demands were not met in the Union Budget 2018-19. 

Prime Minister Narendra Modi will be inaugurating the conference after a gap of three years. 

Other trade unions are also contemplating a similar move after the Union labour and employment ministry did not invite the Congress-affiliated Indian National Trade Union Congress (INTUC) for the ILC — considered the highest tripartite forum of the country. 

At the meeting of its executive committee on Thursday in Gujarat, the BMS decided it would boycott the conference if its demands were not met by February 25. 

The 47th ILC will be held in the national capital on February 26 and 27. 

The BMS had asked the government to review the proposals announced in the Budget on February 1, by incorporating its demands that included providing social security benefits to Anganwadi workers, reimbursing cess to labour welfare boards affected by the goods and services tax (GST), and withdrawing “anti-labour” reform measures. 

“The inter-ministerial committee headed by Union Finance Minister (Arun Jaitley) had promised that it would fulfil many of the demands raised by the BMS and other central trade unions. But nothing has been mentioned in the Budget 2018-19,” the BMS said in a statement on Friday, “strongly condemning” the government that had given them assurances after their “massive rally” in November last year. The BMS had held a rally after a three-day ‘sit-in’ of the other 11 central trade unions in the second week of November against the Modi government’s economic policies.

The BMS has asked its affiliated units to observe February 20 as a “black day”, hold demonstrations, and wear black badges.

“The protest is against the negligent attitude of the central government towards labour problems... The Union Budget 2018 was silent about any of the issues raised by the unions,” said BMS General Secretary Virjesh Upadhyay. The BMS also said it would hold a “huge demonstration” at the ILC venue “to mount pressure on the central government to resolve labour issues”. 

An invitation to the ILC was not extended to the INTUC, which drew the ire of other central trade unions that will meet next week to decide the future course of action. 

“Surprisingly, the INTUC, the biggest central trade union (second-biggest according to the records of your ministry) has not been extended invitation for the 47th ILC, which severely undermines the spirit of tripartism and reflects a discriminatory approach of the authority concerned,” said Left-affiliated Centre of Indian Trade Unions General Secretary Tapan Sen in a letter to Labour and Employment Minister Santosh Gangwar earlier this month.

The government had barred the INTUC last year from participating in any tripartite meetings, with industry and unions, following an intra-union legal battle over INTUC’s leadership. At present, there are three leaders within the INTUC claiming to be leading the 70-year-old trade union. Currently, the matter is pending before the Delhi High Court.

However, Sen said the INTUC was allowed to participate in the recent tripartite meeting to discuss the Code on Wages Bill 2017 after protests from trade unions.

“There is a faction of leadership within the Trade Union Coordination Centre as well. But in their case, the government has invited one of their leaders but has not invited the INTUC,” said a senior trade union leader.

In the previous ILC held in 2015, then BMS president B N Rai had given a strong speech in the presence of the Prime Minister, denouncing the “anti-labour” reform measures announced by the Union government.

Business Standard is now on Telegram.
For insightful reports and views on business, markets, politics and other issues, subscribe to our official Telegram channel