Mass Delhi rally called against power privatisation!

16th November 2022

Electricity company employees in Chandigarh protesting against privatisation

WORKERS in the power industry across India will hold a massive rally in Delhi on November 23 against the Electricity (Amendment) Bill 2022, which seeks privatisation.

Through this Amendment Bill, the central government is going to hand over electricity distribution to private corporations to supply electricity through the existing network of government ‘discoms’ (distribution companies in the regions).
Protesters will be starting from Ramlila Maidan to march to Jantar Mantar, Chairman of All India Power Engineers Federation (AIPEF), Shailendra Dubey said on Monday.
The AIPEF has appealed to all the Chief Ministers of the States and Union Territories urging them to strongly oppose the Electricity (Amendment) Bill 2022 in the larger interest of the energy sector and electricity consumers.
The National Coordination Committee of Electricity Employees & Engineers (NCCOEEE) has been holding state-level conventions across the country in preparation for the Delhi rally for the last four months.
Besides opposing the Electricity (Amendment) Bill 2022, Power Employees are demanding an old pension scheme and regularisation of all outsourced employees.
The AIPEF Chairman said that although Loksabha has referred the Electricity (Amendment) Bill 2022 to the Standing Committee on Energy, up until now the Standing Committee has not held any discussions with power workers or electricity consumers, who are the biggest stakeholders.
He said any unilateral action to get the Electricity (Amendment) Bill 2022 passed in Parliament without consulting the electricity employees and engineers across the country will be strongly opposed, and all 270,000 of India’s electricity workers will be forced to resort to nationwide strike in protest against the move.
Dubey said that after the farmers’ agitation last year, the central government in a letter sent to the United Kisan Morcha has given a written assurance that the Electricity (Amendment) Bill 2022 will not be placed in Parliament without discussion with all the stakeholders.
He stressed that the biggest stakeholders in the power sector are electricity consumers and power employees.
The central government and the Union Ministry of Power have not held any talks to date, either with the consumer organisations of electricity nor with any organisation of power employees, on the proposed amendments to the Electricity (Amendment) Bill 2022.
Union Power Minister R K Singh has claimed that the Bill gives consumers ‘choice’, but AIPEF leader Dubey condemned his statement as misleading and completely wrong, as this Bill will not make electricity cheaper for the common consumer in any way.
The main reason for this is that 80 to 85% of the cost of power is the cost of power purchase and the power purchase agreements are already running for 25 years.
It is clear that the public is being deceived by this talk of ‘competition’.

  • A global delegation of shipbuilding and shipbreaking unions have visited the Alang shipyards in Gujarat, India, and the downstream industries in the ship recycling ecosystem.

The visit came as part of IndustriALL Global Union’s campaign to clean up shipbreaking.
The solidarity visit, by trade unionists from India, Bangladesh, Singapore, Japan, France, the Netherlands and the Geneva head office, was part of a series of activities organised through the shipbuilding and shipbreaking action group.
The events included a workshop on the Hong Kong Convention on 6th November, a meeting of the action group on 7th November, the solidarity visit, and safety training delivered by the Dutch union FNV on 9-10 November.
Considered the world’s most dangerous job, shipbreaking has taken a terrible human toll in the shipyards of India, Bangladesh and Pakistan.
However, India’s shipyards have improved dramatically since the local union, ASSRGWA got organised, and the country ratified the Hong Kong Convention on the Safe and Environmentally Sound Recycling of Ships in 2019.
Although there are still issues at the workplace, including low wages, long hours and precarious work, the situation is much improved.
Delegates toured two shipbreaking yards where workers have the right to stop work they feel is unsafe. Workers are provided with protective equipment and safe working plans.
The delegation witnessed a demonstration by the union through Alang, and a rally at the ASSRGWA compound, which was built with funding from Japanese affiliate JBU.
The rally was addressed by action group co-chairs Eileen Yeo and Kenichi Kanda, IndustriALL assistant general secretary Kan Matsuzaki and sector director Walton Pantland.
Kanda introduced himself to the audience with the Japanese greeting from JBU union members ‘Goanzenni!’ which means ‘be safe!’
Matsuzaki said: ‘We have seen how much we can win through organising. Our challenge now is to organise even more workers, so we can change the balance of power in the industry.
‘We need to organise in Bangladesh and Pakistan and set those countries on the path towards sustainability that India has taken.’
The delegation visited several downstream operations.
Outside the gates of the shipyards, men worked in a makeshift workshop, hand cutting steel plates into discs that would be used to make ploughs and other agricultural implements.
Fifty kilometres up the road, in Bhavnagar, the delegates visited women organised by SEWA who were processing e-waste and recycling old anchor rope into woven mats which are used to created chairs, beds and other furniture.
At the action group meeting, delegates discussed the situation in the shipbreaking industry, as well as trends in shipbuilding.
The International Maritime Organisation target of a 50 per cent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from shipping is leading to changes in the way ships are designed, as well as experimentation in alternative fuels and propulsion methods.
The meeting had a hybrid format with participants also joining online from Australia, Europe and Latin America.
On 6th November, stakeholders in the Indian shipbreaking industry met to discuss progress made towards the ratification and entry into force of the Hong Kong Convention.
Employers representing the Ship Recycling Industry Association and cash buyers, who play an important intermediary role between shipowners and yards, were represented by GMS. A representative of the Gujarat Maritime Board also attended.
The meeting was opened by the general secretary of Hind Mazdoor Sabha, Harbhajan Singh Sidhu, and Matsuzaki, who explained that 2023 is a crucial year for the ratification of the Convention, and that if Bangladesh fails to ratify during that time period, momentum will be lost.
He noted that Pakistan had recently pledged to ratify.
Since India ratified the Convention, almost 80 per cent of yards have been upgraded to compliant standards.
Unions believe that India is halfway through the process – tremendous improvements have been made, but significant work remains.
Unions identified the immediate priority as the establishment of an industry wide joint safety committee.
Matsuzaki proposed the development of a tripartite Alang Standards Committee to agree common standards in wages, safety, workers’ accommodation, transport, training, downstream and other areas of concern to all stakeholders.

  • Members of civil society organisations in Pakistan last Saturday slammed the police’s baton charge and use of water cannons against protesting health care workers last Friday, November 11 in the southeastern province of Sindh.

They condemned the police action against protesting doctors, nurses and paramedics at a press conference at the Karachi Press Club.
Last Friday, hundreds of protesting health care workers, who have been on strike as they demand resumption of the Covid-19 risk allowance and other perks, faced a police baton charge and use of water cannons as they tried to march on the Sindh Chief Minister’s House to force the government to accept their demands.
Anti-riot police dispersed the protesting healthcare workers, detaining many of them.
Speaking at the press conference, founding member of the Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research, Karamat Ali, condemned the police action against the health workers.
He said that rights activists would keep raising concern for the working class of the country.
Members of the civil society were not afraid of anyone and they would keep confronting those who failed to fulfil their responsibilities, he added.
‘If such autocracies continue to happen, injustice and brutality would be rife in society,’ he remarked.
Another civil society member Farhat Parween said there should be no violence against protests. ‘Every citizen has a right to protest,’ she said, adding that resorting to violence to disrupt protests was a shameful act.
‘Those who ordered such action should be ashamed of themselves,’ Parween added.