CPM chief Prakash Karat may have been the only leader of the Left bloc invited to the official luncheon hosted for the visiting Chinese premier Li Keqiang while CPI National secretary D Raja had to wait in the hotel lobby to get a chance to shake hands with the Chinese leader.
But Raja and his party have a very good reason to sport a huge grin when the Government releases its latest census on trade union membership.
As per the figures of the Labour Ministry, the CPI’s trade union wing, the AITUC, has outnumbered the CPM’s CITU by emerging as the third biggest trade union in the country.
And, the figures, which are being verified by the Labour Commission, showed the AITUC in the third place just behind the INTUC and the BMS, affiliated to the Congress and the BJP respectively.
The AITUC’s membership has gone up to a whopping 1.45 crore from the 33.42 lakh in the previous decade, while the CITU’s membership is still hovering around just 55 lakh. The CITU has been upstaged even by the Hind Mazdoor Sabha, an apolitical union of the employees of Indian Railways. The HMS has claimed a membership of 92 lakh.
‘’There is a drastic difference between the two Left-affiliated trade unions this time. While the CPI’s trade union membership has almost increased five times, the CPM’s has doubled its number,’’ said a Labour ministry official.
But the CPM is not willing to buy this.
‘’This is only a claim. I would like to say only one thing; that all our memberships are original. Nobody will be able to find out a fake membership in our union,’’ said CITU president A K Padmanabhan.
Another CITU leader said that the AITUC had managed to increase its numbers by including the agricultural labourers in the head count.
‘’This is not fair and we are going to oppose this,’’ he said.
According to him, agricultural labourers have not been included as TU members in the previous census.
‘’Any trade union will be able to show inflated numbers by including agricultural labourers also. There will be no end to this,’’ said the CPM leader.
The third position is quite crucial for the unions as it would ensure their presence in the official committees which will give them crucial bargaining power. That is why the two Left unions are keen on bagging the number three slot.
According to the CITU leader, the union will soon be lodging a formal protest with the ministry.
AITUC leaders, however, dismissed it, saying that all trade unions do that.
‘’Take the case of the INTUC or the BMS which are the largest trade unions. They have included agricultural labourers in their headcount,’’ said the AITUC leader who is also a CPI national executive member.