Trade unions call for general strike on Sept 2 against ‘unilateral’ labour law changes

Our Bureau New Delhi | Updated on January 23, 2018

​​Reject inter-Ministerial committee set up by Centre for ‘threadbare" discussions​

Rejecting the NDA government’s bid to “dangle the carrot” of another committee to look into their demands, a joint platform of about a dozen trade unions, including federations of defence, railways, banks and insurance employees, on Wednesday called for a country-wide general strike on September 2.

“Committees will not feed out stomachs,” said Pawan Kumar, Zonal Secretary of RSS-backed Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh, on the sidelines of a national convention here. He was reacting to the Labour Ministry’s decision late Tuesday to constitute an inter-Ministerial committee to hold “threadbare” ​discussions with trade union representatives on their 10-point charter of demands and other issues, such as labour law amendments.

The committee ​comprises Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, Labour Minister Bandaru Dattatreya, Oil Minister Dharmendra Pradhan, Power Minister Piyush Goyal, and MoS in the Prime Minister’s Office, Jitendra Singh.

“Why are they (Government) reacting after one year,” ​asked Kumar, adding that discussions had been held for a total of eight hours in two ​earlier ​meeting​s​ by “so-called” committees. “They said they will send a report to the Prime Minister. So, what is the guarantee that this committee will not go the same way,” he added.

Accusing the Centre of ushering in labour reforms through the “backdoor to empower the employers”, a joint statement issued by trade unions said these will “push out an overwhelming majority of workers out of coverage of all labour laws.’

Trade unions ​alleged that several ​labour ​Bills, including those that seek to make registration of unions “almost impossible” and retrenchment and closure “almost free” for employers​,​ were put in public domain without consulting them.

Take the new Apprentices Act that claims to create 18 lakh positions for trainees, said Kumar, citing the recent furnace accident in Durgapur, which claimed the life of a 19-year-old. “The management got away by saying that he was a trainee,” he said, adding that there is no legal cover for​ such workers.

Plight of workers

Highlighting the ​sorry ​plight of workers across sectors, trade unions also cited the “false” cases on 147 Maruti Suzuki workers who were in jail for the past two years as also the massive job losses following the closure of the Nokia plant in Sriperumbudur in Tamil Nadu ​“​despite an assurance by the Prime Minister”.​

The central trade unions’ 10-point agenda calls for government steps to deal with price rise and unemployment, universal social security cover for workers, against disinvestment of PSUs and FDI in defence, insurance and railways, as also “unilateral” changes in labour laws.

While railways support the call for strike, they will not go on one day strike as one day strike means less than half of the staff — only who have assigned duties on that day — will be part of that strike. “Railways will take part in indefinite strike not one day strike,” explained Shivagopal Mishra, General Secretary, All India Railwaymen’s Federation.

Published on May 26, 2015

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