Citu sights on new-age staff

Calcutta: CPM labour arm Citu is attempting to reaching out to "new-economy" workers, promising them help against "exploitation" in their largely contractual jobs, but legal experts said this is easier said than done.

"This is an attempt to eliminate the generation gap in the trade union movement and to strengthen it by responding to what is most relevant now," Citu Calcutta district secretary Debanjan Chakraborty said at a meeting on Tuesday.

Although the Citu has been trying to mobilise support and organise movements in the organised sector, this was the first notable attempt by the Bengal unit since its foray into the IT and ITeS - with the West Bengal IT Services Association - in 2006 came a cropper.

At Tuesday's meeting, Citu veterans like Shyamal Chakraborty and others listened to the problems of workers in IT, FMCG sales, physiotherapy, event management, food delivery and other Web-based services.

"That (promise to stand by such workers) was about the only concrete plan the leaders rolled out. They seemed clueless about other problems," said a young man who had attended the session.

All the other questions - like whether a union can intervene in these new-economy companies or how they could change the nature of the contract between the employees and employers -remained unanswered.

"While the attempt is interesting, how they can go about it is unclear," said Maidul Islam, assistant professor of political science at the Centre for Studies in Social Sciences.

CPM leader and senior advocate Bikash Ranjan Bhattacharyya admitted challenges in resolving some of the problems these young men and women face but insisted there could be a role for Citu. "This is merely a start, the answers can be found as we go along."

But lawyer Sujit Mitra pointed out that there is a lack of legal cover for new-economy jobs.

"This is an era of hire and fire. New companies are coming up in special economic zones where unions cannot be formed. Citu leaders are oblivious of the facts," said a political scientist.


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