Saturday, November 13, 2010

Work Culture, Survival And Class Struggle

தோழர் ஆர். நாராயணன் அவர்கள் நமது AIIEA வின் அகில இந்திய துணைத் தலைவராக இருந்தவர். தற்போது வயது 86. தீவிரமான வாசிப்புக்கு இன்றைக்கும் சொந்தக்காரர். திண்டுக்கல்லில் வசிக்கும் அவர் இப்போதும் அந்நகரத்தில் ஓர் கூட்டம் என்றால் முதல் வரிசையில் அமர்ந்து விடுவார். இன்சூரன்ஸ் ஒர்க்கர் இதழில் 2006 ல் வெளியிடப்பட்ட இக் கட்டுரை இன்றைய சூழலுக்கும் பொருந்துவதாகும்.

R Narayanan

THE Secretariat of the AIIEA, in its recent meeting held at Nagpur, has come out with a clarion call to the employees to mobilize the mass of the people against the looming dangers (listed out in the Editorial of the Insurance Worker 1 February, 2006) and to rededicate to the cause of the public sector by rendering conscious service to the policyholders with more dedication. This cannot be termed as a debt of gratitude for the handsome wage revision achieved; but the truth is, in a way, it was the employees’ work culture that was legitimately compensated in the form of handsome wage revision, no doubt through hard bargaining by the AIIEA.

The handsome wage revision, amidst other things, was a product of the impressive and magnificent business performance of LIC and the public sector general insurance companies, without which all the militancy and even the favourable change in the political scenario could have at best given some rise in the wages commensurate with the business performance.

One can eat the pudding only when it is there. There was a big pudding, thanks to the given general economic situation in which only the public sector insurance industry was there as an attractive destination for investment of their savings by the middle class - though they form a creamy layer of just 15% - commanding absolute confidence with prompt settlement of claims and efficient servicing. The AIIEA played a very crucial role for the sweep and spurt in the business of the nationalized insurance industry. Through its more than a decade of tireless campaigning against privatization of insurance, the AIJEA placed its members among the public at large, both insured and uninsured, propagating and convincing them how the private insurers could not be trusted with the nature of the industry being fragile in the private sector as one could witness the failure of the companies even in countries like the USA and those in the Europe to earn the confidence of the people due to their fraudulent practices. The soundness of the public sector insurance industry was focused with facts and figures to convince the public beyond doubt about their stability and efficiency in servicing. The movement of AIIEA was often converged in ‘Policyholders Servicing Campaign’, ‘Policyholders Week’, etc., through special counters manned in offices by the employees. The soundness of the public sector insurance industry was sowed in the psyche of the whole nation. The powers that which stand for the privatization of the industry could never have imagined a middle class trade union, commanding a membership of less than a lakh, could have roused a nation’s will against privatization despite the political will of the ruling classes under pressure from the imperialist power and their agencies like the IMF, World Bank, etc. the AIIEA could successfully stall the flagship of private insurers from entering into the harbour. The unshakable confidence on the nationalized insurance industry in the hearts and minds of the people was a byproduct of the massive campaign. The result was the unprecedented performance on allcounts by the LIC and the public sector general insurance companies. The AIIEA played the glorious role of a master salesman, which is being accoladed by the officers at all levels. One cannot be under the misapprehension of having raised a Chinese wall impregnable by the offensives of the private insurers, who are ready to bring into play giant international finance capital. Any complacency on the part of the employees would only cost the industry and the employees very heavily.

Even as early as the 1960s, the AIIEA had taken up seriously the cause of policyholders’ servicing. During meetings, in particular after each wage revision, the leaders of AIIEA used to drive home the importance of rendering prompt service to the policyholders - another name for “work culture”. Serious discussions and debates were held and resolutions adopted on the subject of policyholders servicing in all Conferences of the organization at all levels. “A day’s honest labour for a day’s decent wage earned” were the words of Com. Saroj which are still ringing in the ears. He used to assert that only an employee who puts forth his very best would feel indignant if his wage revision got delayed and those who contributed very little labour could not seriously think of struggle for upward wage revision. No doubt, by and large, such speeches brought about all round improvement in “work culture” in the public sector insurance industry. To bring more thrust to the campaign for efficient and prompt policy servicing, Com. N M Sundaram went a step further and called upon the employees to start their anti-privatisation campaign from their individual office desks.

After private insurers were let loose in the field, there has been a tremendous change in servicing the policyholders, which has helped to silence the adversaries who proclaimed that the acme excellence in both cost cut and quality were their exclusive preserves.

“Work culture” need not be denigrated as anti-class consciousness. Such assertions are pure and simple scholasticism, dogmatism. Work culture contributes for the survival of the class without whom there could be no class struggle. The working class cannot just wish away capitalism and its modus operandi to survive somehow as a system of exploitation. The working class necessarily has to chalk out its own forms of class struggles to defend themselves against all forms of attacks by the ruling classes. The ‘Right to Property’ clause enshrined in the Constitution of India helped us to wrest our bonus through the legal process in the Supreme Court. This strategy of the AIIEA came to be applauded by the entire trade union movement of our country. To do all that is possible is struggle, life. Not to do the thing that is possible is anti-struggle, death.

The AIIEA consciously contributed its share to increase the size of the pudding, helping the LIC to record a premium income of Rs.75,OOO crore in the financial year 2004-05 and succeeded in securing to the employees what they legitimately deserved, of course through hard bargaining - a dialectical approach to all problems, wage revision not exempt.

Long live AIIEA!

[This is another angle from, which Com. R Narayanan has looked at the wage revision in the insurance industry, This article is published with the hope that his deep analyses would help to supplement the efforts of AIIEA to further improve the policyholders’ servicing by the employees and thereby defend the public sector insurance industry and the interests of its employees in a more effective way.]

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