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CITU members protest against alleged anti-worker policies of the government, in New Delhi on Wednesday. Ramesh Pathania/Mint
CITU members protest against alleged anti-worker policies of the government, in New Delhi on Wednesday. Ramesh Pathania/Mint

Trade unions to intensify stir against ‘anti-labour’ policies

The two-day strike severely affected road and rail transport as well as banking services across the nation

New Delhi/Bengaluru: Hopes of life returning to normal across the country have receded as trade unions, which had gone on a two-day nationwide strike, on Wednesday promising to intensify their agitation.

The two-day strike had hit life hard in several parts of the country. Now, the unions plan to step up their agitation to “force the government to take note of the plight of workers" trade unions said.

“It is workers versus the central government," said Amarjeet Kaur, secretary of the All India Trade Union Congress (AITUC).

“We shall intensify our strike at industrial belts and in the districts to make workers aware of how the central government has turned completely anti-worker over the last few years. It’s an election year. You will see the response," she said as 10 central union leaders gathered in Delhi to mark the “success" of their two day strike.

Harbhajan Singh Sidhu, the general secretary of the Hind Mazdoor Sabha said the central unions and their affiliates will now discuss the way forward and “will plan an indefinite strike".

Reiterating the works done by the Union government for the working class, finance minister Arun Jaitley Wednesday in a Facebook post said: “The Left affiliated Trade Unions have organized a Bharat Bandh on the 8th & 9th January, 2019. Are there any real issues before them or is it a part of the strategy of the Left political organizations to organize a symbolic unrest to ensure that they are not wiped out from the political map of India. The strength of the Left Parties has been significantly eroded in West Bengal and Tripura. In the recent past, the political environment in Kerala is also building against them."

The two-day strike severely affected road and rail transport services were severely affected in some states, including West Bengal, Kerala, Assam, Bihar, Odisha, Haryana, Chhhattisgarh, Jharkhand,Tripura, Maharahtra, and Rajasthan. Shops and other commercial establishments largely remained closed, while several educational institutions declared a holiday for the two days. A large section of bank employees and electricity department employees stayed away from work. Attendance at banks and government offices, including the electricity department, was also much less than normal.

Union leaders said despite promising to sort out all labour related issues through a group of ministers, the ministers panel has not met them for last three and half years.

Unions claimed around 200 million workers from most of the sectors including banks, insurance, coal, mines, petroleum, telecom, manufacturing, electricity, steel, defence and government schemes joined the nationwide strike.

“At least 40,000 crore of cheques could not be cleared in both days of the strike. Besides, in many places ATMs went dry, and cash deposit in banks got impacted too," said All India Bank Employees Association secretary general C.H. Venkatachalam.

Venkatachalam claimed more than 400,000 bank staffers mostly from state-run banks stayed off work impacting the financial transactions. “The nationwide strike is a success and government will have to take note of it. Else elections are not too far", he said, adding that the bank unions two day strike in solidarity with the central unions resulted in a loss of “₹400 crore in terms of salary" but they were ready for the loss to pass on a message to the government.

General Insurance Employees All India Association and the Electricity Employees Federation of India on Wednesday said their members stayed away from work and will strive harder to make government listen to them on several bigger issues including lack of decent jobs.

Unions have been asking for the fulfilment of a 12=point charter of demands including curb on privatization of state-run firms, minimum wage of 18,000 per month for all workers, reduction in the outsourcing of jobs and implementation of the universal social security.

Communist ruled Kerala continued to remain largely paralysed. Protesters vandalized a State Bank of India office in capital Thiruvananthapuram and blocked trains in some pockets. Workers strike hit the transport service in Kerala that has been facing a series of shutdowns over the last three months related to the Sabarimala controversy.

Meanwhile, Kerala high court observed that the state government is lackadaisical in its approach to provide safety and security to the public during the recurring shutdowns, local news channel Mathrubhumi News reported. The Kerala government had last week decided to bring out an ordinance to prevent the destruction of private and public properties during shutdowns.

Though Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and Tamil Nadu mostly witnessed peaceful protests, some sporadic incidents of violence was reported from these states partially impacting road and rail services.

Though all major unions participated in the strike, the Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh, an affiliate of the Rashtriya Swayamsevek Sangh, did not participate in the strike.

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