In a bid to achieve its target of beefing up the organisational strength of the CITU by 20 per cent, the trade union wing of the CPM is eyeing membership from migrant labourers.
CITU general secretary Elamaram Kareem claimed that the initiative was primarily aimed at improving the lives of the labourers. “Though these labourers have become inevitable to our state, they live in inhuman conditions. They are brought and exchanged like slaves by contractors and are forced to live in shabby and unhygienic rooms. Except for the construction sector, wages are low elsewhere. We came across several cases of exploitation and have taken a firm stand to end their misery,” he said.
Kareem admitted that it was not easy to convince migrant labourers to be part of the trade union. “Except for those from West Bengal, all others are clueless about trade unions. Besides our men, we have created squads of migrant labourers to act as volunteers,” he said.
The CITU, which has 132 affiliated unions, is the fourth largest trade union in the country. The 68-lakh strong organisation expects that the migrant labourers would considerably swell its total strength in two to three years. The CITU enlists migrant labourers in existing unions like the construction workers union, skilled workers union, among others. Though the organisation aims to register around 40,000 persons this year, the task would not be easy. “It is difficult to educate them as most of them are illiterates. We convene gatherings at work sites and explain them the benefits of being part of trade unions,” said Mannaram Ramachandran, general secretary, the construction workers union, who works as a volunteer.
INTUC working president P K Gopalan said that the CITU’s aggressive move was not a threat to other trade unions. “Competition among trade unions has taken a backseat. Across the country, unions are looking for avenues of cooperation for the betterment of labourers,” he said. A state committee meeting of the INTUC recently took a decision to work among the migrant labourer community. “We have decided to give membership to them, which will help us in our interventions,” he said.