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									               ITC/ILO ACTRAV TRAINING COURSE
     A3 – 01018: Trade Union Training on Training Methodologies,
    including Distance Education Turin, Vienna: 10/03 to 02/04/2008
                             COUNTRY REPORT
                                                      Rajendra Giri
                                                      Education Co-ordinator,
                                                      Hind Mazdoor Sabha (HMS)
It is indeed a matter of great pleasure and privilege for me to participate in the above
training programme on behalf of Hind Mazdoor Sabha (HMS) one of the major central
trade union organisations of India. In the Indian conditions, where national Trade Union
Centres are wings of one political party or the other, Hind Mazdoor Sabha (HMS) is the
only major trade union organisation which is truly independent of political parties,
whether in power or in opposition. Hind Mazdoor Sabha made a bold bid to strike a
new path of organising unions as independent organisations without control of political
parties. This policy of independence which was declared in the founding conference of
HMS in December 1948, has remained unpolluted till now, though this period has
seen many upheavals in power politics and on the trade union scene in the country. HMS
has affiliation of over 2800 trade unions working in all the industries/services in most of
the States and Union Territories. The total membership of these affiliates is over 5.8
million. Its affiliates in the Railways, Port and Docks, Seafarers, Road transport and
Civil aviation industries are the majority unions and as such they are the spokespersons
of the employees of their respective industries.

Labour Market and Trade Union situation
India is a country of over 1027 million people (531 million male and 496 million female
as per census 2001) with a workforce of nearly 470 million, majority of who work in the
unorganised, informal sectors. Although Indian economy has been growing at the rate of
about 8-9% per annum and above in recent years, a number of major problems stare us in
our face – growing unemployment is a foremost challenge. Major issues agitating the
minds of the workers are – Government’s anti-labour                   economic policies,
privatisation/disinvestments of profitable PSEs and its proposals to dilute labour laws.
The unions are also greatly concerned at the informalization of labour market, lack of
social security in the unorganised sectors, declining purchasing powers and rising
inflation, non enforcement of labour laws, no respect for the right to organize or engage
in collective bargaining, tendency to treat Industrial Relations (IR) issues as law and
order problems that often leads to brutal Police action. From 1890 (the year when the first
organization of the workers was formed in India, called Bombay Mill hands Association)
to 2008, the labour movement in India has come a long way during the last century. The
number of trade unions has risen from 29 in 1927-28 (membership 1,00,619) to 66,000
currently with a membership of over 40 million. Although this constitutes only about 9%
of the total workforce, the trade union membership among the wage and salary earners is
much higher.

Woman workers account for about 1/3rd of the total work force which is currently
estimated as over 470 million. Over 8.5% of women main workers work in rural areas,
mostly as agricultural laborers and cultivators. In urban areas, majority of the women are
engaged in informal sector in household industries, petty trades, services, construction
sector, etc. Since women’s employment is low in organized sector (4.95 million or about
18% of the total organized sector employment), their membership too is low in trade
unions, except in those sectors in which women dominate such as Plantations where
women membership as high as 70%. The percentage of women members to total
membership has ranged between 7 & 12 percent.

The weakness in the workers movement is that it divided along the political party lines
and this often prevents united action by the workers organizations and allows the system
to ignore the workers interests. As mentioned earlier, there are about 66,000 trade unions
in the country currently with a membership of over 40 million. But this strength is
divided up among 15 central trade union organizations, big and small, not to talk about
independent unaffiliated, company based unions. There are currently 15 Central Trade
union Organizations in India, out of which five are considered major ones. These are –
Bhartiya Mazdoor Sangh (BMS), Indian National Trades Union Congress (INTUC),
Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU), Hind Mazdoor Sabha (HMS) and All India Trade
Union Congress (AITUC). More than ever before, the labour movement needs to reassess
the political choices before it and unite to push forward its agenda on employment,
purchasing powers, working conditions and trade union rights.

Trade Union Education and Research
HMS has always stressed that if trade unions are to be independent of party politics,
they must be controlled and run by the workers themselves. With this objective in view,
HMS and its affiliates have engaged themselves in constant training of their cadre.
Knowing fully that the strength of trade unions lies in the wide base of strong and vigilant
cadre, we have decided to train and educate our cadres on variety of trade union topics
and other subjects. This is being done through ours own cells/institutes as also those set
up by our affiliates. There are over 18 such trade union education and research institutes
established by the HMS affiliates at various places in India. Similarly, the other central
trade union organizations in India too have established their own research and trade union
education institutes to take care of their research and educational needs. Special mention
in this regard may be made of Maniben Kara Institute (MKI), one of the premier labour
research and education institutes of HMS which is doing remarkable job in the area of
trade union education and research. The Institute is catering to the needs of HMS
affiliates by organizing educational programmes on variety of topics and by undertaking
various research work of labour’s interest.

We have so far trained thousands of union activists who are now managing their unions
competently. The training programmes organised by HMS and its affiliates are
motivating and helping the participants to participate effectively in their respective
unions’ activities. These programmes are also helping in enhancing the skills and creating
second level leadership apart from generating much-needed enthusiasm amongst the
cadre to face the problems and challenges posed before them.

In the initial years, unions were mostly conducting their training programmes in the
rented places. The programmes largely addressed by the union leaders and the
methodology was generally study circles and discussions etc. Since then, the unions have
come a long way as far as trade union education is concerned. Today, a large number of
unions are having their well-established trade union education and research centers with
full time officials especially responsible for this task. A number of unions have built their
own well-equipped trade union education centers at various places in the country to cater
their educational needs. To begin with lecture and a black board in the initial years, today
unions are using various participatory methodologies ranging from active lectures, group
work, discussions, role plays, debates, to variety of trade union education games in their
educational programmes. The various educational training aids viz. White Board, Flip
Chart, OHP, LCD, and other audio-visual aids used by the educator now-days to conduct
their programmes more effectively and impressively. The modern trade union education
techniques and methodologies are helping the unions in achieving maximum result and
benefit from the programmes.

Challenges before us in the area of workers’ education
I would also like to mention some of our shortcomings and areas requiring improvement
in the area of workers’ education. However, it must also be clarified that many of these
shortcoming can only be reduced to the minimal and probably not eliminated completely
because of certain inherent problems like the sheer geographical size of our country, its
population, its socio-cultural traditions, low percentage of literacy and existing
inadequacies in union structure. Today, there is dire need of long-term structured policy
on trade union education at the National, State and union levels. There is also need to
improve the networking of activities and regular exchange and sharing of information
about the various education programmes that are being conducted by individual unions,
Industrial federations and those being conducted by HMS to avoid the duplication and to
ensure better resource management so that more and more persons can avail the
opportunity of education programmes. Financial structure of our unions are generally
being weak, its repercussions are also felt when it comes to education activities. Unions
by and large are still not in a position to allocate separate funds for education activities
and mostly depend on HMS or its respective Industrial Federations or the general
finances of the union or assistance from external sources on an ad-hoc basis. In many
education activities the expected results fall short of targets because there is no proper
follow up both on the part of the Educators/Organisers and the local leadership who is
expected to monitor the activities to ensure maximum educational and organizational
results. Though a large number of educators and activists are trained and equipped with
necessary skills, reporting still remains a weak area. Some time lack of seriousness from
participants as well as educators/organisers, improper selection of participants, non-
availability of resource persons especially in far-flung areas are also major hurdles in
achieving the expected outcome from an education programme. These shortcomings
need to be corrected for the larger benefit from the education courses in the times ahead.

Use of Information Technology (IT) in trade union work
To give our best to our union members and to protect and promote their interest, it is
imperative to keep abreast with new technological advances enabling us to carry out our
activities more systematically and professionally. Therefore, the usage of IT is very much
vital for the progress of any segment of society including trade unions. Unfortunately,
due to various reasons (including affordability)) still a large number unions in India are
not using computer for their work. The big resource full unions are using computers for
their day- to-day activities including for storing their general and membership record and
for other purposes including word-processing etc.

The inter-net is proving more and more useful day by day. Trade unions could use it too
to improve their communication and for information exchanges and networking. A few
unions are doing that but still there are lot more potential of doing it on a wider scale. A
few unions even have their own websites and full-fledged computer department, but still
a lot remain to be done in the area. The IT could be very useful for unions in various
areas including in managing their day to day activities, updating developments in wage
negotiations, workers education and research and for other important trade union related
issues and activities. The inter-net can also be used for the internal activity of the
organisations, for example to train and educate trade union representatives or to improve
communication between the central bodies of organisations and representatives at
different levels. The inter-net undoubtedly generates new opportunities with regard to
education and training and can be used for networking and building alliances and for
variety of other activities in the trade union work.

Looking into problems and challenges posed before the trade union movement today, a
lot more remains to be done in the area of workers’ education. It’s imperative to give
much-needed importance to workers education to not only raise awareness amongst the
ranks and file but also to develop leadership skills, collective bargaining capabilities and
more importantly to develop a breadth and clarity of vision necessary for keeping larger
development interests in mind while pursuing workers interests. In view of the disastrous
effects of changing economic scenario on working class, we have to gear up our
education programmes to provide information on how to cope with these challenges.
Equally necessary will be education on labour participation in management, education in
trade union management, training in company accounts and managing workers’
cooperatives etc. With thousands of industries in the throes of sickness, we will have to
educate on how to detect symptoms of industrial sickness and combat them. Emphasis
will also have to be laid on health and safety education, corporate social responsibility,
education on productivity, problems of young workers and women and capacity building
of trade unions etc. The informal economy which is growing and creating more and more
contract and casual labour in India, there is dire need to bring these workers in to the
folds of the unions through our education cum organisation programmes. Lastly, but
more importantly future trade union education programmes will have to carry the
message of consolidation and unity of the fragmented labour movement of India. Only
this will ensure our healthy survival in future.


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