Modi govt faces working class
wrath, trade unions go on strike today
Live Mint, November
New Delhi: Rebuffing
requests by the central government, the country’s largest trade
unions said they will launch a nationwide strike from Thursday
demanding more jobs, better wages and pensions.
Central trade unions and their affiliates, representing millions
of workers, will go on a three-day agitation outside Parliament
and will continue their nationwide relay protest for the next
four months to “highlight government inaction to create more
jobs and protect the interest of the working class”.
The move not only opens a new political front against the
Bharatiya Janata Party-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA)
government, but also puts the spotlight on the politically
contentious issue of jobs, which has become the central issue
voiced by the opposition in the campaign for the assemblies of
Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh.
A slowing economy and disruptions caused—particularly to the
informal economy—by the back-to-back measures of demonetisation
and the rollout of the goods and services tax (GST) has only
emboldened the opposition.
“This move has two key focus areas—the short-term
industrial-relations equation with the government and the
long-term political opposition. While unions in the short term
want the NDA to restart negotiations on reforms with them, the
relay strike in an election season will highlight opposition
unity and underline joblessness in the country,” said K.R. Shyam
Sundar, a labour economist and professor at XLRI Jamshedpur.
On Wednesday, a group of 10 central trade unions told reporters
that their “anti-government” offensive will start with a
three-day national “dharna” in Delhi on Thursday to highlight
the plight of the 470-million-strong working community in India.
“The anti-people and anti-worker policies of the government at
the centre are inflicting horrific miseries and hardships on the
crores of common people from every walk of life. Unemployment is
getting aggravated with every passing day,” the joint platform
of trade unions said in a statement.
The Joint Trade Union Platform represents workers and employees
from all major sectors of industries.
“Till mid-February, you will see hundreds of protest marches,
rallies, tool-down strikes across sectors, across states and
across cities,” said Amarjeet Kaur, national secretary of the
All India Trade Union Congress. Their interaction with the
labour ministry failed on Tuesday night as labour minister
Santosh Gangwar “could not give any specific assurance” on their
demands, said Kaur.
The group of ministers headed by finance minister Arun Jaitley,
created to ease friction between workers and the government, had
not met the trade unions for the last two years, she said.
“Where are jobs?” asked Tapan Sen, general secretary of the
Centre of Indian Trade Unions. “The organized opposition by
workers of different sectors over a sustained period of time
will now force the government to take note of their plight,” he
Though the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh-affiliated Bharatiya
Mazdoor Sangh (BMS) voices the same concern—the lack of job
creation—it will not join the other unions. Instead, it has
called for a strike on 17 November.
Last Friday, all central unions except BMS boycotted a meeting
with the labour ministry after the latter failed to invite the
Congress-affiliated Indian National Trade Union Congress (INTUC).
They forced the ministry to relent and invite INTUC to the talks
on Tuesday, which remained inconclusive.
Labour ministry officials claimed that the unions were not being
reasonable. “On their demand for a Rs18,000 minimum wage for all
workers, I don’t think there can be a quick consensus as
industries are not in favour of it,” one official said.
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