Modi govt must initiate dialogue with Central Trade Unions to resolve workers’ valid concerns

The two-day nationwide strike on March 28-29 by Central Trade Unions indicates that the already strained industrial relations in the country are set to turn even more ugly

Representative Photo
Representative Photo

Dr Gyan Pathak

The two-day workers’ strike across India on March 28-29 on the call of the joint platform of 10 Central Trade Unions (CTUs) – INTUC, AITUC, HMS, CITU, AIUTUC, TUCC, SEWA, AICCTU, LPF and UTUC – and sectoral federations and associations is getting huge support, barring from the pro-government Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh (BMS), which has roots in RSS-BJP and naturally supports Modi government, though large number of workers affiliated with the BMS are going to participate in the general strike.

In spite of the impending threat of Essential Services Maintenance Act (ESMA), many roadways and electricity workers, such as in Haryana and Chandigarh, have decided to join the strike. It should be an eye-opener for the Modi government since the country seems to be heading towards an ugly turn in terms of the already strained industrial relations in the country.

The strike has not only found larger support from the workers of organized sector but also from the unorganised sector. Preparations for strike are in full swing. Joint state level conventions of central trade unions are being organized along with sector-wise conventions in public and corporate sectors. Conventions are also being organized in the unorganised sectors such as scheme workers, domestic workers, hawkers, beedi workers, construction workers etc.

Workers in railways and defence sector will also be holding protests mobilizations at more than 750 places across the country in support of the strike. Coal, steel, oil, telecom, postal, income tax, copper and financial sector, including banking and insurance, employees are also joining the strike, while farmers under the banner of Samyukta Kisan Morch has also decided to observe rural bandh on both the days.

Political parties in opposition are also supporting the strike and the workers’ demand. Even students’ unions have decided to participate.

The joint platform has also made appeal to various unions at state levels to join the strike, and many of them are also likely to join it, despite warnings from state governments.

‘Save People, Save Nation’ is the slogan with which the workers are going on strike in which, the CTUs said in a joint statement, at least 20 crore workers will be participating. The strike call was given against the “anti-worker, anti-farmer, anti-people, and anti-national policies” of the centre, CTUs said in the joint statement.

They have also cited the Centre’s decision to reduce the interest rate on provident fund from 8.5 per cent to 8.1 per cent and the increase in the prices of petrol, LPG, kerosene and CNG.

Their 12-point charter of demand includes scrapping of the four controversial labour codes and the Essential Defence Services Act; accepting the six-point charter of demands of the Samyukta Kisan Morcha (SKM) post repeal of Farm Laws; no to privatisation in any form and scrapping the National Monetisation Policy (NMP); Food and income support of Rs 7,500 per month to non-income tax paying households; Increased allocation for MNREGA and extension of employment guarantee scheme to urban areas.

It also includes: Universal social security for all informal sector workers; Statutory minimum wage and social security for Anganwadi, ASHA, Mid-day meal and other scheme workers; Proper protection and insurance facilities for frontline workers serving the people in the midst of pandemic; Increase in public investment in agriculture, education, health and other crucial public utilities by taxing the rich through wealth tax etc in order to revive and revamp the national economy; Substantial reduction in Central Excise Duty on petroleum product and concrete remedial measure to arrest price rise; Regularisation of contract workers, scheme workers and equal pay for equal work for all; and Cancellation of National Pension Scheme (NPS) and restoration of old pension substantial increase in minimum pension under Employees’ Pension Scheme. All other organisations participating in this general strike have their own special demands also.

The demands are prima-facie valid and are being discussed in the public domain for a long time. However, Modi government has been shying away from any meaningful open discussion with the striking central trade unions to reach a solution that is long overdue.

Any delay or one-sided decisions by the Centre would only cause further deterioration in the industrial relations which are already under great stress.

(IPA Service)

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