BMS: biggest trade union in India, doubles its membership in Kerala

via Indian Express published on January 21, 2008

New Delhi: It’s finally official—CITU, the trade union of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), is no longer as powerful as it used to be. A process that began five years ago to verify the membership claims of central trade unions in the country as on March 31, 2002, came to an end last week when the Ministry of Labour and Employment notified the results. While CITU has slipped from the third place it occupied in 1989 to fifth place, a bigger surprise comes from Kerala. The Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh has managed to muster more than double the number of members (1.52 lakh) in the southern state than Congress’ INTUC (71,289). This is significant since the BJP has never won a single Assembly seat in Kerala.

At the all India level, among the two major left unions, the Communist Party of India’s AITUC has moved up from fifth place in 1989 to third place in 2002. In Kerala and West Bengal, however, AITUC remains far behind CITU, indicating it is far ahead of CITU beyond these two states—in Bihar, Jharkhand, Maharashtra, Orissa, Rajasthan, Punjab and Uttar Pradesh. The provisional results of the verification exercise conducted by the Chief Labour Commissioner (CLC) through field officers across the country, were intimated to all trade unions on May 21 last year.

Unions were given a chance to point out errors and omissions so that these could be verified before finalising the numbers. The CLC has agreed to the corrections sought by some unions—in the process, increasing INTUC’s membership by nearly 65,000; AITUC’s by over a lakh and HMS by 1.1 lakh. CITU’s strength remains unchanged from the provisional results, further marginalising their relative strength at the national level. The final verified membership has been okayed by a Standing Committee of trade union representatives constituted by the Government and was submitted to the Labour Ministry on December 31, 2007. The notification was issued on January 11, after Minister of State with Independent charge of Labour Oscar Fernandes cleared it.

The verification exercise conducted every ten years or so, is important as it determines the representation levels granted to unions in national as well as international conferences, committees, councils, et al. The Left unions, it may be recalled, were also virtually wiped out in the recently held first-ever union elections through secret ballot at the Indian Railways, the country’s largest employer. They have also been losing ground in public sector units such as Bharat Heavy Electricals Limited

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