Race Course Workers Union Elections in Bengaluru

It was a massive victory for AICCTU led by Com. Balan in the elections to the union of race course workers on August 18. Out of 473 total votes polled, Com. Balan secured 425 votes (90% votes), while the INTUC rival could secure only 48 votes. It was a huge victory which came in context of several challenges. The victory becomes even more significant since the overwhelming majority of workers are migrants mainly from Bihar and UP. The opposing forces conspired actively to try and stall elections and ensure AICCTU’s defeat. However, neither free flowing supply of liquor nor promises of money could lure workers away from voting in favour of complete panel of AICCTU. This is a victory of workers against the money and muscle power and political conspiracies to hijack the union from AICCTU. The determination of the workers to deal a deadly blow to the traitors and a powerful assertion of workers’ rights stands vindicated.

Race Course union is a treasure for underworld Dons operating in race course. They, backed by the ruling power Congress and the underworld, wanted to take over the union from workers. They created all hurdles for the union against negotiating and signing second wage agreement that is due for more than a year. INTUC led goons threatened workers in various ways including display of guns in order to create fear. Still, workers fought valiantly, stood firm with AICCTU and chased away the careerist and rowdy elements with ballots. After tasting defeat at all levels, right from Labour office to court, the careerists and power mongers had to be content with the election ordered by the court. The court appointed Additional Advocate General as Election Officer to conduct elections and to decide the majority support while the Assistant labour Commissioner assisted him. Frustrated by the imminent defeat, the rival INTUC faction attempted a conspiracy of an appeal to foil the election process by moving the division Bench of the High Court for a stay which was also dismissed just two days before the elections.

In the period of seven days of election campaign, the union held two massive public meetings for two days. A huge campaign rally of workers was taken out on 16 August, that went through nook and corners of race course complex in addition to a rally for nomination that had taken place on 2 August.

AICCTU has changed the entire face of the movement of race course workers of Bangalore and Mysore. Wages, working and living conditions of around 1000 race course workers, including Syces, Jamedhars and Ferraris underwent a dramatic change. Workers had been facing a serious crisis of harassment by the police and attacks by the management in 2012. After several militant protests and twists and turns, workers were restored back to their jobs. In the subsequent negotiations on Charter of Demands, yearly increment of Dearness Allowance (DA) was introduced in addition to yearly hike in wages every month. Mandatory social security benefits like ESI and PF facilities were secured as a part of the trilateral agreement in 2013 only. Workers also received a hefty sum as arrears.

Comrade Balan, all India Vice President of AICCTU has been the president of Race Course Workers Kshemavriddhi Sangha from 2012 and has led many struggles to win higher wages and other benefits to Syces, Jamedhars and Ferraris. The union had entered into a Memorandum of Settlement which ended last year. The management was not willing to talk as some individuals and ex-employees of INTUC were claiming the union to be theirs. The present election to the union is a way forward in the struggle for higher wages and better standard of living of workers who are otherwise a neglected and exploited lot for more than two decades.