On April 26, 2023, the Department of Posts of the Ministry of Communication of the Government of India issued an order withdrawing recognition to All India Postal Employees Union (AIPEU) and to the National Federation of Postal Employees (NFPE). According to the government order, the AIPEU and the NFPE have been derecognized because they acted in violation of the Central Civil Services (Recognition of Service Association) Rules, 1993.
Rule 6(c) of the CCS (RSA) Rules, 1993 states that “the Service Association shall not maintain any political fund or lend itself to the propagation of the views of any political party or a member of such party”. The unions are accused of having violated this rule by contributing money to the kisan andolan, to the CPI (M) and to the CITU.
It is not the government’s business that the workers of a government department want to support the kisan andolan or some other andolan of the people. It is not the government’s business that a workers’ union contributes funds to the CITU, AITUC or BMS or any other trade union. It is not the government’s business if a workers’ union lends itself to the propagation of the views of any political party.
It is the membership of the union who should have the right to decide on these and other matters — not the government.
By removing recognition to AIPEU and NFPE, the government is blatantly attacking the rights of workers to form unions of their own choice, and to fight for the rights of postal workers and the rights of all other exploited and oppressed.
The government has justified derecognition of the unions because (1) they contributed Rs 30,000 as donation to Confederation of Central Government Employees to be given to the Kisan Andolan (2) they have contributed Rs 50,000 to the CITU and (3) Rs 4,935 was spent from the union accounts on buying literature from the CPIM book store in New Delhi. The real aim is to smash the fighting organisations of postal workers.
Capitalists are allowed to finance political parties of their choice, both openly, and through electoral bonds. Capitalists also sponsor various other activities which promote their interests. But the government wants to deny workers the right to support political parties of their choice, or support just struggles of workers and peasants. Workers unions cannot accept this.
The AIPEU is one of the oldest unions of workers of India, formed in 1920. The NFPE is a Federation of Postal Employees, consisting of eight unions of postal workers including AIPEU. NFPE’s Assistant General Secretary said “Our organization has support from employees of every ideological stream. This organisation has a history of agitating against British rule. Now this attempt to cancel recognition is to end all trade union activities in the sector.” He pointed out that in the last referendum of Postal workers in 2014, 75 % of the 4.5 lakh postal workers had voted for the NFPE. The next referendum is due in 2024.
The NFPE has been in the forefront of struggles of postal workers and government employees against privatisation and the rights of workers. Recently, the NFPE had organised a one-day strike against privatisation of postal services and demanding restoration of old-pension scheme. The government wants to weaken and smash the fighting organisations of the postal workers. This is what is behind the de-recognition of NFPE and AIPEU by the government.
The capitalist class and its government has historically used the “recognition” of unions as a carrot to provide leaders of such unions with privileges, in return for keeping the struggle of workers within acceptable limits. The threat of derecognition is used to keep the leadership of unions in line. Public sector workers and government employees in different sectors of the economy have learnt this from life experience. Therefore, the trade unions and workers organisations, cutting across party and union affiliation must support the struggle of postal workers in defence of their rights.