The 3rd national conference of AICWF concluded in Ranchi on 29-30 September with a call of struggle for ‘Higher Wages and Regular Work.’ The conference venue was named after recently departed leader Comrade Swapan Mukherjee who played a prominent role in the formation of AICWF. The conference began with a massive Workers’ Rights Rally and March through prominent parts of the city. Many local construction workers standing on labour chowks spontaneously joined this march.
The rally was addressed by CPI(ML) MLA in Jharkhand Rajkumar Yadav who called upon this contingent of urban workers to strengthen their organisation and to forge a broader unity of urban and rural workers to oust the pro-corporate governments which have launched an all out attack on basic rights of working class. He said that the Modi and Raghuvar Das governments in centre and state are looting the natural resources and human labour for big companies and basic minimum rights of common people are now very much endangered. A bigger, stronger and broader movement against corporate communal fascist regime is the need of the moment. He called upon the AICWF delegates to continue and intensify the fighting spirit which was manifested during the all India General Strike of 2 September recently and force the government to withdraw anti-labour reforms and legislations which are in the offing.
Subhendu Sen, Jharkhand state General Secretary of AICCTU, expressed concern for expanding and strengthening the Construction workers’ Federation in view of major onslaught on basic livelihood rights of this highly vulnerable but one of the biggest sections of workers and called for not remaining limited to, and dependent on, construction workers’ welfare boards for every solution. He said that even the present scenario of employment, which is generally 15 days a month only without any labour law benefit, is further going to deteriorate with the coming of big corporate capital in the form of placement agencies. Only a bigger and widespread organisation can sustain any further attacks on labour rights, otherwise there is an imminent danger that even statutory welfare boards in states may go under the control of big companies of this sector.
Comrade SK Sharma presented a work report before the conference. Major issues which were discussed among more than 200 delegates, men and women- mainly masons and navvies, and mining and brick-kiln workers, were non-implementation of Construction Workers’ Act 1996 in almost every state in its full spirit, more than 60% construction workers all over the country still are completely out of the ambit of this Act, misuse of Welfare Board Cess and deprivation of deserving construction workers from the benefits of this fund (which now amounts to more than Rs. 40,000 crores in all the states), dangerous work conditions without any safety measures, non-registration of construction workers in these welfare boards, and prevailing castiest and communal atmosphere which is adding manifold deprivations to the workers who are already devoid of any kind of social security.
The Open Session of the conference was also addressed by the General Secretary of All India Municipal Workers Federation Shyamlal Prasad, leader of All India Contract and non-Regular Workers Federation Rambali Prasad, Executive President of Coal Mines Workers Union Baijnath Mistry, Centre of Steel Workers’ leader JN Singh, Jharkhand State Employees’ Federation’s Sushila Tigga, Jharkhand Mid-day meal workers’ leader Ajit Prajapati and CITU’s Jharkhand General Secretary Prakash Viplab.
The conference, attended by representatives from 16 states, concluded with the election of a 47-member National Executive with a 15-members office bearers team. Comrade Balasubramanian from Pondicherry was elected as National President and Comrade SK Sharma from Bihar as General Secretary. The conference gave a call of struggle for equal benefit in all states, guarantee of registration of every construction worker in the welfare boards in states, and common rules and regulations in all states. The conference also resolved for strengthening organisational structures at local, district and state levels.
Besides a demand charter for construction workers, the conference also passed resolutions condemning repression of Aanganwadi workers in Lucknow terming it a direct attack on workers’ democracy and demanding action against guilty police officers, another resolution was passed condemning military repression of Kashmiri people in the name of terrorism and jingoist maneuverings and fake nationalism of Modi government.
The conference chalked out a programme and a detailed plan of action and propaganda for local, district and state levels to be culminated in a national level mobilization which will be held during budget session of Parliament in February 2017 in the national capital.