Ten trade unions to go on strike to protest against changes in labour laws, but government expects minimal impact
Essential services like banking and public transport maybe impacted on Wednesday with ten central trade unions going ahead with their one-day nationwide strike, even as the government appealed to them for calling off the agitation, which the Bharatiya Janata Party-backed Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh and National Front of Trade Unions decided to boycott.
While these ten unions claim to have a combined membership of 15 crore workers in public and private sector, including banks and insurance companies, several outfits representing informal sector workers also announced their support to the strike.
Labour Minister Bandaru Dattatreya, however, said he expects the impact to be minimal. "I don't think essential services will be affected by the strike. I feel that the impact will not be much. I appeal them to call off strike in the interest of workers and nation," Dattatreya told reporters in New Delhi.
The union leaders, however, said the strike will affect the functioning of essential services like banking, transport and supply of power, gas and oil.
Countering this claim, the BMS said that power, oil and gas supplies will not be affected as a large number of public sector workers in these areas would not participate in the industrial action.
As many as 12 central trade unions had given this strike call over a 12-points charter of demands, including withdrawal of the proposed changes in the labour laws and stopping the disinvestment and privatisation of public sector units.
While as many as ten central unions have decided to go ahead with the strike after their talks with a group of senior ministers last week failed to yield desired results, the BMS pulled out saying the government needed to be given time to fulfill its promises on the basic demands. The NFITU will also stay out.
The government also indicated that the talks with trade unions will continue even if they go on the strike on Wednesday.
On impact of the strike, Dattatreya said, "The BMS and NFITU are not in the strike. Besides there are two to four organisations (unions), which are neutral." He did not reveal the names of the 'neutral' trade unions.
He further said, "We don't want any confrontation with trade unions. The workers' rights and interests are supreme to us. We will continue talks with trade unions even after the strike."
Meanwhile, various outfits for informal sector workers, under the banner of Working People's Charter, appealed to the BMS to rethink on its decision to withdraw its support to the strike at the eleventh hour.
Speaking on behalf of the ten strike-bound central trade unions, All India Trade Union Secretary D L Sachdev said that all ten central trade unions recognised by the government will go on strike. He also claimed that "many state units of BMS will also join the strike".
Earlier in the day, BMS General Secretary Virjesh Upadhyay told reporters that "a large number of public sector undertakings who are members of central trade unions are not going on strike.
"Thus, services like power, oil and gas supply will not be affected. Big PSUs like NTPC, NHPC and PowerGrid will not observe strike tomorrow. Therefore, the power supply will not be affected".
Upadhyay said the National Front of Indian Trade Unions has also decided not to go on strike and wants to give some time to the government, at least till the winter session of Parliament, for fulfilling its assurances like uniform minimum wages across the board and enhancing wage ceiling for bonus.
"The strike will be observed in all organisations which are associated with the trade unions. These include roadways, power, textile mills, cement factories, auto-rickshaws and others," said Guman Singh, state (Rajasthan) president of INTUC.
The BMS linked roadways, power and other departments' trade unions would not go on strike tomorrow, and over 80,000 employees would go on their job in Rajasthan, its Executive President R B Sharma said in a press conference in Jaipur. "The impact of the BMS pull out will be minimal on strike on September 2. The decision of the BMS is political," All India Trade Union Congress General Secretary Gurudas Dasgupta had told reporters. Dasgupta had said that informal sector workers like rickshaw pullers and landless farm labourers will also participate in the strike.
The employees of state transport undertakings and coal workers will also participate in the nationwide strike to pitch for their agenda that includes opposition to the Road Transport and Safety Bill in its present form and further stake sale in Coal India.
Workers' unions in Punjab and Chandigarh have decided to join the nationwide strike call given by central trade unions.
Banking services are also likely to be affected with bank employees also announcing to observe strike tomorrow.
"As many as 3 lakh employees working in various departments in Haryana will join the strike call tomorrow," said Subhash Lamba, General Secretary, Haryana Sarv Karamchari Sangh.
Employees of departments which will be participating in the protest include transport, power, education, HUDA, health, irrigation, market committees, universities, he added.
Lamba said employees will be on strike, demanding minimum wages of Rs 15,000 per month, abolition of contractual system for hiring, non-implementation of anti-labour laws, 7th Pay Commission from January 2016 and reining in inflation.
Haryana Roadways employees have also decided to go on strike on Wednesday.
"There will be a complete Chakka Jam tomorrow as 20,000 employees of transport department will be on strike. Around 4,000 buses will not ply on any route in Haryana," said Sarbat Punia, representative of Haryana Roadways Employees' Union.
In Punjab, employees of state-owned Punjab State Power Corporation Limited have also planned to participate in the strike.
However, an official of PSPCL said duties of officers have been fixed in order to ensure that no disruption in power generation and distribution takes place in Punjab because of the strike.
Besides, employees of Chandigarh's transport and electricity departments will observe strike on Wednesday.
However, Chandigarh administration has said that principle of 'no work no pay' will be strictly enforced in the city and warned of taking disciplinary action.
Banking transactions are also likely to be adversely affected as bank employees of public sector banks, excluding SBI, will also participate in the strike.
Bank unions such as All India Bank Employees Association, All India Bank Officers Association, Bank Employees Federation of India, Indian National Bank Officers Congress, National Organisation of Bank Workers, Indian National Bank Employees’ Federation and National Organisation of Bank Officers will be participating in the strike, said Naresh Gaur, Secretary, Punjab Bank Employees Federation.
As per the membership claims filed by the central trade unions, there are over 13 crore members of the government recognised 12 central trade unions.
India has a workforce of 50 crore people, of which over 80 per cent is in the unorganised sector.