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Absent unions: May Day

Updated May 01, 2013
— File Photo
— File Photo

THIS year, with May Day being observed just before a general election, the loss is felt all the more. Trade unions are missing from the scene. We have only numbers and statistics to justify and disprove. Individuals and groups have taken a backseat as life is held hostage by percentages. There is no antithesis. It has been presumed trade unions are a luxury which can be done without for the sake of progress, that unions actually prevent development, and that the prevailing system will, as if by magic, self-correct and eventually ensure fairness for all if not equality. These are all excuses for laziness and resignation, for perpetuating an exploitative system and for a lack of understanding of the realities and indeed of market logic.

When the elected government took power in 2008, one of its earliest vows was to restore the unions. Later on, the same government was repeatedly attacked for its failure to honour its words over so many issues; but no one thought it necessary to remind it that it had once promised the revival of trade unions also. It has been said and it will no doubt be reiterated in the future that an organised workforce could provide an effective counter to the retrogressive elements in society, some of which go as far as wanting to derail the entire system. But then, a union empowers people against monopolies and against basic inequalities, as, in parallel terms, does an elected local government. Thus it naturally scares powerful political players. The worst part is that, while the local governments do find a place in election speeches, the unions remain absent even from rhetoric — a sad case of a huge force no one is ready to exploit.