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Thursday, June 23, 2011

Confederation Circular Dated: 23rd June 2011


Dear Comrade,

We write this to solicit your support and solidarity for the postal workers of the country who are preparing to go on indefinite strike action from 5th July 2011 onwards. The National Federation of Postal employees (NFPE), All India Postal Extra Departmental Employees Union (AIPEDEU), the two affiliates of the confederation has under the banner of the Joint Council of Action with the Federation of National Postal Organizations (affiliated to INTUC) and the National Union of Gramin Dak Sewak(affiliated to INTUC) have served the Strike notice on 14th June 2011 on the Postal Board. The Strike action will commence on 5th July, 2011.

The Issues

1. Some time back, the Department of Post, appointed the World (in) famous Transnational Corporation, Mckinzey Consultancy to make recommendations to it as to the manner and methodology to be adopted to restructure the century old postal system of the country. While the avowed objective was to modernize the system and make it a profit making venture, the real intent was to reorganize the department in such a manner so as to equip itself viable for privatization/corporatization. Earlier the Postal Department had made several attempts to privatize its functions and in the process large scale outsourcing was also resorted to. With the prime objective of eroding the efficacy of the Postal department, various steps were undertaken like, closure of sorting units, cutting down the staff strength despite widening business ventures, pegging down the overtime rates by linking it to pre-1986 pay scales etc. Thrice the Government made attempts to introduce legislation in the parliament to grant license to courier service providers. The stubborn resistance of the M.Ps especially of the left parties and a few others in the parliament and the struggles organized by the employees at the work spot thwarted it successfully till date. However, systematically and meticulously the Department had been creating conditions whereby the customers moved away to patronize the private courier services, run illegally without any licence whatsoever. Surprisingly even Government Departments, which are to communicate with large number of people often became customers of such illegally run private courier service providers The Mckinzey consultancy who is yet to make its final report, has however, suggested certain measures in the name of Mail Network optimization project which the postal department has now decided to implement without causing any discussions whatsoever with any of the stake holders, especially the unions. Their suggestions include:

(a) Closure/merger of about 9797 post offices in the urban area

(b) Reduce the number of Speed Post Centre from 315 to 89.

(c) Reduce the RMS sorting centres from 412 to 84

(d) To redeploy the postman staff in the newly created "Delivery hubs"

2. The major chunks of the postal workers are Gramin Dak Sewaks or Extra-departmental Agents. The EDA was the system developed by the British Government to spread the postal communication system to far flung rural areas of the country. They were simply agents or franchisees and were appointed so for pittance of a remuneration. Their cause was taken up by the unions of regular employees, the NFPE and its constituents and the FNPO, in the post-independent era and through sustained struggles fetched them very many concessions, benefits and privileges and brought them nearly on par with the regular employees. When the 5th CPC was set up in 1993, the Postal department was forced to appoint a Judicial Commission (The Talwar Commission) to go into the wage-structure and other service conditions of the Extra Departmental Agents, presently called the Gramin Dak Sewaks. The committee made far reaching recommendations, a good number of which the Government had to accept and implement, (except civil servant status and pension) thereby improving the lot of these employees considerably. However, the committee set up in the wake of the 6th CPC, the Natarajamurthy committee headed by a retired Postal bureaucrat, ensured that the EDAs were reduced to casual part time workers reversing in the process, decisions taken on the basis of Talwar Commission suggestions. Most of the committee's recommendations were in sync with the neo-liberal economic policies. The rules governing their service conditions have now been unilaterally amended whereby they may not be even termed as "employees" hereafter. The very caption of the regulatory rules which was GDS-Conduct and Employment rules have now been changed to GDS- Conduct and engagement rules, reducing them to the status of a Contract Worker.

In the negotiations which took place on 6th and 7th June, 2011 the Postal authorities have stuck to their stand of implementing the decision to create Speed Post and First Class mail hubs, despite their inability to contradict the fact presented by the staff side that the creation of such hubs has resulted in abnormal delay in the delivery of articles benefiting the private operators. It has, therefore, become unambiguously clear that without organizing sustained struggles and eliciting the support of the entire section of the working people and garnering public opinion, the reversal of the decision would not come about. The undeniable fact that Government and the Postal department armed with the recommendation of the Mckency consultancy are determined to demolish the existing postal system in the country to pave way for the unhindered entry of private operators has to be defeated.

We therefore once again request you to extend your co-operation, support and solidarity to make the proposed indefinite strike successful to compel the Government to rescind their decision to act upon McKenzie recommendations in the Postal Department.

With greetings,

Yours fraternally

K K N Kutty.

Secretary General