| by N.S.Venkataraman

( January 23, 2015, Chennai, Sri Lanka Guardian) Several decades back, Karl Marx gave strong call to the workers that “you have nothing to lose except the chain”. This call of Karl Marx resounded across the world, as it was then appropriate to the issues and problems faced by the blue collar workmen. It resulted in the development of very strong movement where every work man participated with enthusiasm and it created fear and apprehension amongst the exploitative employers. May Day , celebrated across the world now , is a tribute to the imagination and pioneering efforts of Karl Marx.

The movement has now even gone a step further causing more confusion, with the self employed people like autorickshaw drivers and small merchants forming associations and claiming sort of trade union rights, resorting to mass action on one pretext or the other and paralysing the society.
However, now many have started wondering whether the trade union movement has outlived it’s need and now has assumed different dimensions and shape, becoming a tool for the politicians.

The ground reality today is that the trade unions are affiliated to one political party or the other and have come to represent the interests of the political parties, where agitations are launched or not launched depending upon the particular conditions facing the political parties. The immediate example is the recent strike by the transport employees in Tamil Nadu , which was organised by a few unions affiliated to the opposition parties and thwarted by the unions affiliated to the ruling party. The political parties are really serving their political interests by organising the workers under the cover of the trade union concept, and using them to suit their interests.

When Karl Marx envisaged the trade union movement ,he had in mind the poor and the downtrodden people who could not get even a square meal a day and who were exploited mercilessly by the then rich employers in various methods. Today, large section of the members of the trade union movement are no more those whom Karl Marx sought to support and represent.

It is ironical that even those working as air pilots getting huge salary and perks and officers in the bank, public sector undertakings as well as college professors and others , who live in posh flats and own cars and live in comfortable conditions, also form unions and claim trade union rights. They organise themselves and resort to agitations and strikes , whimsically claiming that they are being exploited.

To add to such strange situation, now Information technology(I T)employees

also want to form trade unions and they are being encouraged by the political parties to do so. None of these IT employees can be called as deprived and downtrodden persons and one would know this if he would care to see their life style. The well paid I T employees strangely argue that they have the right to form associations and unions and claim that they are covered under the Industrial Disputes Act and Labour Act !

Obviously, the trade union movement today has become an exploitative means on the part of the organised employees, drifting far away from the original image of the trade union members as exploited class.

Mass agitations and strikes by these organised class of employees have become the order of the day, often disrupting national life and inconveniencing millions of people. The public resentment against this sort of behaviour of the organised class are now becoming evident but these organised class , backed by diverse political parties and led directly or indirectly by political leaders, do not seem to care.

It is high time that a relook should be taken into such behaviour of the organised class of employees, which is causing set back to the economic interests of the country.

The movement has now even gone a step further causing more confusion, with the self employed people like autorickshaw drivers and small merchants forming associations and claiming sort of trade union rights, resorting to mass action on one pretext or the other and paralysing the society.

Of course, there are still millions of unorganised workers in the country today like domestic servants , unskilled agricultural workers , construction workers who are not in a position to assert their rights and demand justice when exploited. May be, the concept of trade union movement still have some relevance to this class of unorganised people.

The present situation certainly calls for a re look and perhaps legislations should be evolved fixing income level above which the rights of employees to organise themselves into associations for the purpose of carrying out agitations and strike should be denied.

eThis has become a matter of urgency as the present style and content is no more the one that Karl Marx knew of. It has become a tool to meet the interests of the political parties and the organised class also cooperate with them, as they can get the benefits , while meeting the interests of the political parties also. The trade union movement has to undergo a course correction now, as the larger national interests are being affected and inconvenience caused to the public by the exploitative methods of the organised class.

ARCHIVES FROM AUGUST 2007 TO JANUARY 2015