TRADE UNIONS FIRM ON SEPT 2 INDIA STRIKE, SLAMS GOVT. FOR DIALOGUE WITH ONLY SAFFRON UNION
NEW DELHI: More than 15 crore workers will go on a nationwide strike on September 2 with all trade unions, except the RSS-affiliated Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh (BMS), coming together on a 12 point charter of demands that includes measures to control price rise and negotiate minimum wages for workers.
The strike has been called against the central government’s “unilateral labour reforms and anti-worker policies.”
The Banking sector, Insurance, Defence, Coal, Post, Telecom, Public Transport, Oil will all be impacted across India. The Railway workers will not strike work but express solidarity through demonstrations and processions.
The unorganised sector will organise chakka jams, and hold protest demonstrations. State and central government employees will join the strike as well.
Last year the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) led government had formed a Group of Ministers to negotiate with the workers and restrained them from striking.
The one and only meeting with the trade unions was held in August last year with Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, MoS Petroleum and Natural Gas Dharmendra Pradhan, MoS Home Jitendra Singh, Power Minister Piyush Goyal and Labour Minister Bandaru Dattatreya.
Since then, trade union leader Amarjit Kaur told The Citizen, not a single meeting has been held.
“These ministers had urged us not to go on strike at that time, and we did, after which they have not called one meeting to discuss the workers issues,” she said.
Two days before the all India strike now there have been some stirring in the government.
The Group of Ministers have met the RSS-affiliated BMS, with Finance Minister Arun Jaitley in the lead. No other trade union was invited for these discussions, and the ministers are expected to hold a press conference to possibly announce some concessions.
All the other trade unions have, however, resolved to go ahead with the strike with the view that little of significance will be addressed by the government and will be meeting the media to announce the details.
BMS has been on a shifty footing since the decision to highlight workers concerns was taken by all the trade unions, cutting across party lines.
It has not supported the strike but nor has it opposed it.
In conversations with other trade union office bearers BMS has maintained, “we are yet to take a final decision” although it has been negotiating with the government that has ignored all the other worker bodies.
Sources said that BMS has unilaterally agreed to drop four of the 12 points in the charter of demands under pressure from the government, that is expected to address the other eight.
However, it is not known what demands have been dropped, and what conciliatory measures the government that has ignored the charter till date despite the strike call several weeks ago, will be taking.
Amarjit Kaur wondered at a government that was negotiating with just one trade union that was not part of the strike, and ignoring all the others who had given the call for an All India strike.
AITUC general secretary Gurudas Dasgupta was “shocked” that the government’s Group of Ministers formed to discuss the charter of demands last year was now “patronising just one union which is not a party to the general strike.”
Workers, in the organised and particularly unorganized sectors, have been facing acute hardship because of spiralling prices and no increase in income.
The trade unions want a sharp increase in minimum wages to Rs 18000 plus.
BMS, worried about an adverse impact on its workers, is still maintaining that it will take a final decision to join the strike after the Group of Ministers hold their press conference on Wednesday.
If we are not satisfied we will join the strike, is the BMS position now leaving it as the only trade union keeping out of the All India call.
The trade unions going by the silence of the government for a year on the basic demands for the workers, are of the view that there will be little of significance in the announcements by the GoM.
“The strike will take place as scheduled on September 2” is their final decision.