Prophets of doom have been proved wrong. They have been spreading rumours that there was no enthusiasm for the Wage Board Award among the newspaper employees. But on the contrary, hundreds of newspaper employees assembled to listen and interact with Advocates Parmanand Pandey and Colin Gonsalves on 16th May 2015 at Bhopal regarding the state of Majithia Wage Award.
They wanted to know as to how to put across their grievances before the labour inspectors to be appointed by the state government on the direction of the Supreme Court. There is terrible mistrust among the employees towards the labour inspectors. They think, and rightly so, that the state officials behave as the handmaid of the newspaper proprietors and even the political leaders are afraid of taking the side of the employees.
Shri Pandey, who is also the Secretary General of the Indian Federation of Working Journalists, exhorted the employees to unionise to get their rights. It is the disunity of workers and their fear factor that is depriving them from their legitimate rights. He told them, at length, how the battle for the Award was fought and won. There was no need for them to be panicky. In any case, the State Governments would have to appoint the Labour Inspectors as per the direction of the Supreme Court.
They have only to inform the Labour Inspectors about the total number of employees- regular and contractual both, wages which they have been getting before and after the judgment. They must ask the labour inspectors to make a surprise visit to the offices of the newspapers to procure their balance sheets and advertisement tariffs. If there is any harassment like suspension, transfer or termination or change of service conditions, they must immediately bring it to the notice of inspectors and prevail upon them to make it the part the report. Labour Inspectors should be told, in no uncertain terms, that if any false report is submitted by them, it would put them in soup and therefore they should be doubly cautious about the factual position. No newspaper owner or the political bandicoot would come to their rescue if they fudge with factual position in their reports.
Shri Pandey promised them to send a detail advisory to them in a fortnight, which will help them in making the representations to the inspectors. This has to be done assiduously to make a foolproof case. A team of dedicated comrades has to work hard. Cheap publicity has to be avoided. Agents of managements, operating in different garbs and disguises, will spread misleading canards to distract the employees from their path. Therefore, they must guard against them.
Senior Supreme Court lawyer and noted Human Rights Activist Collin Gonsalves told he employees that in the past no Award was implemented by the owners because the governments have been sleeping over them but this time because of the intervention of the Supreme Court, it was going to be a reality. Employees must have to remain united and alert otherwise a battle that had been won might turn into a disaster. He was lavish in his praise to MS Yadav of the PTI Federation, who pulled all socks during the struggle for the Award and told the employees to show the similar grit and determination to achieve the benefits of the Award in their organisations. He wondered over the lack of unionisation in the newspaper industry.
There are dozens of registered unions of newspaper employees or journalists in Madhya Pradesh but they have never approached the Labour department of the state for any of the demands of the newspaper employees or media persons, bemoans an official of the State Labour Commissioner while talking to us in Bhopal. It sounds strange and shocking that many criminals and thugs are running the unions of journalists in Madhya Pradesh for their own protection and livelihood. They will talk of fourth estate but have not even heard of Wage Boards. They will flatter the officials for advertisements for their rags and behave like pimps of politicians to bluff their proximity with them. There is one senior journalist, who said that he would not share his grievance with some union leaders because they would pass it on to the proprietor of his newspaper to make some money.
There may be exaggeration in what he alleged but this perception about unions is certainly very painful and the unions will have to take initiative, in all seriousness, to purge such traders. Regrettably, the Patrakar Bhavan of Bhopal has been usurped by hoodlums and frauds. Successive governments have failed to restore it the rightful owners, the Bhopal Shramjeevi Patrakar Sangh, an affiliate of the IFWJ because it suits the governments to have goondas on their sides to browbeat the genuine journalists. Be that as it may, the Majithia Award has come as a boon for the real working journalists to unite and throw out the dishonest and selfish wolves roaming in the garb of sheep.
It was pleasure to see a large number of women newspaper employees enthusiastically taking part in the meeting. Employees of Nayee Duniya, Nav Duniya, Dainik Bhaskar, Rajasthan Patrika are now up in the arms to achieve the Award. Salman Khan of the Bhopal Shramjivi Patrakar Sangh and the old and infirm Rajendra Kashyap was present all along in the meeting to keep the spirit of youngsters high. The undersigned vowed the employees that IFWJ would not leave any stone unturned to redeem their rights.