The Indian economy reportedly suffered a loss of Rs 25,000 crores due to the September 2 nation-wide strike by central trade unions in protest against labour reforms proposed by the Narendra Modi-led NDA regime, and impacted most essential services.
Normal life was affected in many states as millions of industrial and blue collar employees struck work in the first nation-wide protest since Prime Minister Modi took power more than a year ago.
Ten unions, armed with a 12-point charter of demands, also questioned the government’s decision to exclude factories, with up to 40 workers, from the ambit of labour laws.
Sharan Burrow, the general secretary of the Brussels-based International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), the world’s largest trade union body, reportedly questioned the Indian Government’s intentions in working to improve labour standards.
G. Sanjeeva Reddy, vice president of ITUC and president of INTUC, and a former member of parliament, however, also expressed his dissatisfaction with the high membership fees, amounting to lakhs of rupees, being paid to the ITUC.
He said, “I make large contributions to ITUC Brussels and ITUC Singapore, but these funds are never used for our own progress, but used by the ITUC for its own purposes. INTUC pays 18 lacs annually to ITUC, which is a huge amount by any standards. Honestly speaking, I have my grievances with ITUC. Our workers should get partnership in profits. After all, ITUC is living on our contributions. How much power have they got, what can they do?”
Questions have also been raised about ITUC often shifting its focus from its prime responsibility of exhibiting solidarity with workforces around the world, and instead, condemning systems of governance in entirety.
Reddy said, “I do not want international people to come and interfere with my work, because only solidarity doesn’t help. I have got my own organisation with three crores 30 lakh workforce, my own funds. I will not accept slavery for money or promise to help in our own cause.”
“Our workers are living in far flung villages, and we have Rs.20 crore fund in fixed deposit. We are not asking for any dole from anyone,” Reddy added.
He further said, “It’s my personal opinion that they cater more to workers in western countries. I have expressed this unreservedly in my meetings. I am telling in my organisation this also. They are more concerned about the problems of the developed nations, the highly-paid workers. They should take care of the interests of Asia and Africa, and other poor countries”.
“What is the point in being affiliated to ITUC? What is the purpose? We are affiliated only to identify ourselves with the international labour movement, that’s all. It is only psychological; it doesn’t make any real difference to us.”
Virjesh Upadhyay, general secretary of the Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh, also voiced his objection on the ITUC’s meddling nature.
“ITUC, being the largest confederated body of the trade unions of the world, is facing credibility issues. They are losing their relevance. They are not doing what they are supposed to do. Like some NGOs in India have been banned for hurting the economy, we are demanding that ITUC also be banned because they are not serving Indian concerns. They are carrying out agendas of other countries and organisations.”
Misutilisation of funds has been the central theme in every criticism of ITUC. They have also been allegedly accused of hiring the services of Essential Media Communications (EMC), an Australian firm, to give boost to their various campaigns, especially against Gulf countries, on social media.
It is being reported that they have allegedly also paid thousands of dollars to other agencies to exercise similar mandates.
ITUC reportedly gets its annual funds from its affiliates in 162 countries, which amounts to millions of dollars. It is, therefore, puzzling to comprehend why a self-sufficient organisation like the INTUC needs to reach out to a global body like ITUC only for moral support.