The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Citu sounds strike war cry

Chennai, Dec. 9: After 24 years, the Citu is back in Tamil Nadu with its all-India conference and planning a countrywide general strike to counter the apex court order that followed this state’s clampdown on its striking employees.

The overriding sentiment at the 11th conference of the Centre of Indian Trade Unions was the need to “defend the right to strike”.

The “entire spectrum of the trade union movement” was entering a decisive action phase, veteran CPM leader . Sankariah said at the inaugural session today.

Citu general secretary M.K. Pandhe said they were committed to “go ahead” with the one-day strike. “We will soon announce the date after consultations with all trade unions,” he added.

Earlier this year, Tamil Nadu had sacked about 170,000 striking employees and teachers. Subsequently, the Supreme Court had ruled such workers had no “legal, fundamental or moral right to go on strike”.

Almost every speaker at the venue of P. Ramamurthy Nagar, outside Chennai, spoke about the “very critical juncture” at which the five-day conference was being held.

Soon after hoisting the Citu flag, its president E. Balanandan launched a tirade against chief minister Jayalalithaa’s “repression” and her regime’s “uncivilised treatment” of employees who were protesting a “unilateral” cut in their pension and other benefits. These benefits, he said, were the only “savings” left to the middle and the working classes.

The working class in no other part of the world has ever met with such a “penal punishment”, Balanandan added.

The implications were more “unprecedented” as the apex court’s pronouncement had hit the “main lever of collective bargaining — the right to strike”, which amounted to “taking away the right to livelihood”, the veteran Citu leader said.

The conference’s first resolution, adopted unanimously today, lashed out at the state government’s “dictatorial, repressive, anti-people and soft-Hindutva policies”.

Equally strident was the theme of the ill effects of “LPG” — liberalisation, privatisation and globalisation of economy. All India Trade Union Congress (Aituc) veteran Gurudas Dasgupta warned against a “facile” reading of the BJP’s Assembly poll sweep as people’s “support” to such policies.

C. Kuppusamy, the chief of the DMK’s labour wing and an MP, urged the 2,200- odd delegates to adopt a resolution on reviving the “Be Indian, buy Indian swadeshi movement”.

Balanandan also condemned the state’s “misuse” of the anti-terror law and the attack on press freedom, including the Assembly resolution sentencing six senior journalists of The Hindu and Murasoli, the DMK mouthpiece, to 15 days’ imprisonment. “This method of Jayalalithaa needs to be changed,” he said.

The conference has drawn 400 women delegates and 40 representatives from “fraternal trade unions” abroad, including China, Bangladesh and Nepal.

Leaders of unions such as the Hind Mazdoor Sabha and the Utuc-Lenin Sarani, too, addressed the gathering.

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