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Trade unions said the planned consolidation of a plethora of labour laws into a handful of legal codes will deprive 90% of the country’s workers of safeguards. Photo: Pradeep Gaur/Mint
Trade unions said the planned consolidation of a plethora of labour laws into a handful of legal codes will deprive 90% of the country’s workers of safeguards. Photo: Pradeep Gaur/Mint

11 trade unions plan strike on 26 May

The strike that was announced on Friday is to protest what unions called the anti-labour policies of the BJP-led ruling coalition

New Delhi: Eleven trade unions plan to go on strike on 26 May, the first anniversary of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government, to protest what they called the anti-labour policies of the ruling coalition.

The strike was announced on Friday as three ministers met national trade union leaders in the capital to discuss a 10-point charter of demands, ranging from a rollback of some labour reforms and the stake divestments in state-owned firms announced by the government to an increase in the minimum wage for workers.

Labour minister Bandaru Dattatreya, petroleum minister Dharmendra Pradhan and power minister Piyush Goyal listened to the union leaders, who accused the government of making arbitrary decisions without keeping in mind the interests of workers.

“All unions will go on strike and release a white paper listing the anti-people activities of the NDA government on their anniversary day," said D.L. Sachdeva, national secretary of the All India Trade Union Congress, on the sidelines of the meeting, which was still underway late in the evening.

The Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh (BMS), an affiliate of the ruling BJP, is among the 11 unions that plan to go on strike. “The ministers have not assured us anything on our demands," BMS president B.N. Rai said.

Junior finance minister Jayant Sinha did not turn up for the meeting, Rai said.

Trade unions said the planned consolidation of a plethora of labour laws into a handful of legal codes will deprive 90% of the country’s workers of safeguards. The ministry is striving to reduce the number of labour laws from 44 to five.

“In the name of labour code, you are reducing the workers’ protection. Instead of enforcing the laws rigorously, the labour ministry is gradually allowing the industries to exploit workers," said Tapan Sen, a Rajya Sabha member representing the Communist Party of India (Marxist). Sen, who is also the general secretary of the Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU), said all trade unions will hold a joint convention on 26 May.

CITU president A.K. Padmanabhan said the labour ministry’s influence has diminished and even the minister, although he has his roots in the labour movement, is “helpless". “All decisions are being taken by the Prime minister’s Office," he said.

Labour secretary Shankar Agarwal said the ministry is seeking to balance growth, job creation and protection of workers. “Its a wrong perception that the government is anti-worker," said Agarwal.

The unions are demanding a minimum wage of 15,000 per month across India and assured pension of 3,000 per month. They have also aired their anger against the so-called hire-and-fire principle, and want the government to scrap a decision to allow foreign investment in railways and defence.

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