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Bharat Bandh: Meet between union leaders, ministers fails

Last updated on: February 19, 2013 00:46 IST
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A meeting between central trade union leaders and senior ministers failed in New Delhi on Monday night with the unions refusing to accept the government's appeal to postpone their two-day call for strike from February 20.

The trade unions said the committee headed by Defence Minister A K Antony failed to give them any concrete proposal and not a single demand made by them was accepted by it.

"The strike is on... They are only asking for time. They say they will study the demand and will give proper reply or take necessary action later on... We said it is not possible, there should be some concrete decision over demands of the workers," Indian National Trade Union Congress President G Sanjeeva Reddy told mediapersons.

The two-hour long meeting was attended by representatives of all the 11 trade unions which have given the strike call.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had on Sunday appealed to the unions to call off their strike as it would cause loss to the economy besides inconvenience to the people and had offered talks.

The prime minister had requested his senior Cabinet colleagues A K Antony, Sharad Pawar, P Chidambaram and Labour Minister Mallikarjun Kharge to hold discussions with them.

Finance Minister P Chidambaram could not attend the meeting because of ongoing budget meetings. The meeting took place in Antony's office in the defence ministry.

Reddy also said that the government failed to offer ‘any alternative’ to their call for strike. "If no demand is settled and no concrete assurance is given, it is very difficult for the trade unions to withdraw or postpone the strike," he said.

Asked what if the were offers made by the government to the unions, he said, "No offer, they wanted more time. We said we have already given two years time. We placed the demands three years before, so three years time we already gave...So there is no question of giving more time."

He said the government could not give any concrete assurance on any one single demand. "Therefore, we are sticking to our strike" call, he said.

The unions have given the call for the stir on issues of price rise and violation of labour laws. Talking to reporters after the meeting, Harbhajan Singh Sidhu, General Secretary, Hind Mazdoor Sabha, said the government's only assurance was that the demands of the unions will be discussed in the next Cabinet meeting.

"They said that they will discuss these demands in next Cabinet meeting. But we have some very valid demands...The government should implement the labour laws first. It is shameful to say that the government could not give at least this much of assurance," he said.

Sidhu said that at least five of their demands could have been met by the Union labour minister himself.

"We are ashamed to say that none of these 10 demands could be accepted by the government. Five of these demands could have been implemented by the Labour Minister himself... The government has no way to suggest how they will put a break on this rising inflation also," he said.

Thanking Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for inviting the unions for talks, he said, "But no one is listening to the demands of the people who are hurt by inflation."

The strike has been called by Bhartiya Mazdoor Sabha, INTUC, the All India Trade Union Congress, the HMS, the Centre of Indian Trade Unions and the All India United Trade Union Centre among others.

The Independent Federation of Workers and Employees has also joined the protest call.

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