The Mamata Banerjee government has finalised plans to ban trade union rights of teaching and non-teaching staff in colleges and universities across the state. The logic that drives the decision is that teachers and non-teaching staff of educational institutions do not qualify as factory workers.
The move follows a similar controversial step for state government employees and even the police.
Labour minister Purnendu Bose is expected to hold a meeting with departmental officers shortly to finalize ways to curb trade union rights. Trinamool Congress (TMC) all India general secretary, Mukul Roy, would hold another meeting later this week with pro-TMC employees of universities to clear the stand.
“Universities are not factories. The teachers and non-teaching staff are not factory workers. I will soon sit with labour department officers to find ways to stop trade unionism in campuses,” said Purnendu Bose, state labour minister talking to HT.
“In Bengal, a large section of teaching and non-teaching staff of educational institutions have been members of associations which are affiliated to trade union bodies,” said Bose.
Teachers at the school and college-university levels in Bengal are organized into All Bengal Teachers’ Association and West Bengal College and University Teachers’ Association that so far had overwhelming Left domination, and they frequently undertook agitation programmes.
A large number of para-teachers and part time professors are also forming unions affiliated to trade union bodies. Non-teaching staffs are also members of various trade unions.
The minister told HT, teachers and non-teachers would be allowed to form associations and samitis for collective bargaining. “But we do not want strikes and agitations in campuses,” added Bose.
“We have already written to the labour minister that government should immediately revoke the right of trade union in university campuses. Teachers come here to teach, not to agitate. They are not factory workers, and nothing should be allowed to damage the acadmic environment,” said Sankudeb Panda, president of Trinamool Chattra Parishad (party’s student wing).
“Rampant trade unionism during the Left Front regime has eroded the work culture everywhere and colleges and universities were not exempt. Our chief minister wants to put and end to this and create the right environment for education,” said a senior party leader.
CPI(M) leaders have labeled the initiative as another attempt to crush basic rights of employees. Anadi Sahu, former labour minister said, “Our chief minister has revoked students representations in university bodies and also representation of graduates (graduate constituency), which were in practice since the British times. Now they are once again trying to curb the rights of university staffs including para teachers and part time professors. People would not accept this.”
After the new government too charge, it curbed trade union rights of government employees. Later the government also dissolved unions in Kolkata police, a matter that is right now in the court.