New Delhi, Sep 1 (IANS) Millions of workers in industrial units, banks, transport, power, and government services across India will take part in a day’s strike on Friday to oppose the NDA government’s “anti-labour” policies and demand better wages, central trade unions said.
They said the strike will also flag price rise and growing unemployment, and underline workers’ opposition to disinvestment in the public sector and FDI in Railways, Defence and Insurance sectors.
The trade unions are demanding that price rise be checked through a pan-India public distribution system, labour laws be enforced, and all workers get universal social security.
Also on their charter of demands is revocation of ceilings on payment of bonus and provident fund and increase in the quantum of gratuity.
The agitation has been announced despite Finance Minister Arun Jaitley announcing on Tuesday that the government would release state employees’ bonuses for the last two years, and increase minimum wages for unskilled workers.
Union Labour Minister Bandaru Dattatreya during an interaction with trade union leaders on August 30 appealed to them to call off their agitation.
In some states, local unions have also agreed to join the strike which is likely to affect transport and communications.
“The cental trade unions (CTUs) reiterate the call for countrywide general strike on September 2 against the anti-worker and anti-people policies of the government,” said a joint statement by the unions on Thursday.
“In view of the utterly unresponsive and undemocratic attitude of the government, the CTUs view the announcements made by the Committee of Ministers as an eyewash and have decided to go ahead with the strike. Meagre raise in minimum wage to Rs 9,100 per month in central sphere is not binding on the states,” it said.
The unions that will participate in the strike are INTUC, AITUC, HMS, CITU, AIUTUC, TUCC, SEWA, AICCTU, UTUC, and LPF.
However, the Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh (BMS), affiliated to the ruling BJP and the Rashtriya Sawemsewak Sangh (RSS), has decided to stay away from the agitation.
According to trade union sources, banking and insurance sector will be affected the most besides public sector undertakings (PSUs).
In Karnataka, especially in Bengaluru, a dozen central and state trade unions are readying to observe the day-long strike.
“There is unity among us to demonstrate our strength for a common cause,” All India Bank Officers’ Confederation General Secretary N. Krishna Murthy told IANS in Bangaluru.
With state-run and private transport employees and workers joining the strike, bus services in Bangaluru and other cities across the state will be affected for 12 hours from 6 a.m to 6 p.m.
Banking operations are likely to be hit across the country as six major unions of bank employees including All India Bank Employees Association and All India Bank Officers’ Association have given the call for the strike.
Bank unions are opposing privatisation of banks and merger of the State Bank of India (SBI) with its associate banks.
Reacting to Jaitley’s comments that bank mergers need not be the concern of bank unions, C.H. Venkatachalam, General Secretary, All India Bank Employees Association, said: “It just shows the continuing feudal outlook of those in power when in comes to the workers’ unions.”
The Northern Zone Insurance Employees Association in New Delhi announced their participation in the strike, alleging that the government has over the months “made a mockery of functional autonomy” of the public-sector insurance companies.
The trade union leaders would also address a workers’ meeting on Thursday in central Delhi.
Venkatachalam told IANS in Chennai that about five lakh bankers are ready to strike work, protesting against the central government’s economic polices and anti-labour reform measures.
Labour Progressive Front (LPF) General Secretary M. Shanmugam said about 30,000 state transport workers may not report to duty across Tamil Nadu on Friday.
Meanwhile, Union Coal and Power Minister Piyush Goyal said there was sufficient supply of coal for the country’s power plants to operate even if there were no mining activities over the next two months.
“Even if no coal is mined for the next 50 to 60 days, the power industry can rest assured that they would get an uninterrupted supply of coal to keep their plants running,” the minister said.
Workers of Coal India are also likely to participate in the strike called by central trade unions.