Thursday, December 06, 2007

Railway, Labor & Left

Today's Indian express carried an interesting article
For first time, railwaymen vote to elect unions, derail Left
Vikas Dhoot
Posted online: Thursday, December 06, 2007 at 0000 hrs Print Email
AIRF which traces roots to V V Giri & JP sweeps polls, CITU union ends up sharing power in only one of 16 zones

AIRF says our union not against reforms which will help us
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NEW DELHI, DECEMBER 5: Last week, the country’s largest employer, Indian Railways, elected its official trade unions for the first time by secret ballot. And if the results are any indication of the working class mood, the Left better sit up and take note.

Because the union that swept the Railways elections across the country is the All India Railway Men’s Federation (AIRF) that traces its roots to former President V V Giri, Jaya Prakash Narayan and had George Fernandes as its chief when the Railways went on strike in 1974.

Of the sixteen zones, the CPM-affiliated CITU’s railway union, Dakshin Railway Employees’ Union, won enough votes to be recognized in only one zone — Southern Railways. There too, the union could only muster 33 per cent of the valid votes and will have to share power with the AIRF union that got 38 per cent of the votes.

The AIRF won recognition status in all but one of the sixteen zones — while they emerged as the only recognised union in four zones, they won joint recognition with the Congress party’s National Federation of Indian Railways’ (NFIR) unions in nine zones. The NFIR was set up by the Congress’s INTUC after Independence.

Ironically, the BJP-affiliated Bharatiya Railway Mazdoor Sangh, whose controversial recognition by the NDA government in 2002 actually led to the courts asking for elections by secret ballot, won in just one zone — North Eastern Railways.

“The results are a clear sign that the workers have rejected the politically-affiliated trade unions. Unlike others, we don’t take money from political parties and function in a democratic manner with every functionary being elected by secret ballot,” says Shiva Gopal Mishra, AIRF’s assistant general secretary.

Although AIRF is not in favour of any privatisation that works against railwaymen’s interest, they are not against reforms — unlike the Left unions. “As a responsible trade union, our first goal will be to strengthen the Railways, so we are all for moves that help the Railways run more efficiently and give better customer satisfaction,” Mishra said

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