Workers are set to clash with the Union government, with 10 central trade unions and several of their affiliates asserting on Monday that their 8 January nationwide strike will be “the mother of all strikes", and will affect common services across the country.
More than 200 million workers from all sectors, including banking, coal, oil, defence, public sector enterprises and transport, will join the general strike to oppose the government’s “anti-people and anti-worker" policies, said Amarjeet Kaur, general secretary, All India Trade Union Congress.
“We will not let the government forget workers...issues of their jobs and livelihood," said Kaur. In the last six years a ministerial group created to negotiate with trade unions on workers’ issues has only met them once, in 2015, she added.
“Unemployment is at a 45-year high, suicide by farmers continue, hiring and firing is the new norm, small businesses are dying, economic growth is down in the dumps and consumer demand is down. Yet, the government is creating a narrative to make us believe that all is well. Workers will show their strength," said Ashok Singh, president, Uttar Pradesh, Indian National Trade Union Congress.
Workers’ unions have been making several demands, including a ₹21,000 minimum wage, higher basic pension for all, tripartite discussion on labour reform, and a rollback on privatization of profit-making public sector undertakings.
Representatives of the unions said while the labour minister had called a meeting last week, he had failed to give any assurance.
“You will see farmers’ associations, government scheme workers, and informal workers’ groups on the street with the same passion as industrial workers who will stay away from work to join the protest," said H.S. Sidhu, general secretary, Hind Mazdoor Sabha.
About 60 organizations of students and elected office bearers of some universities have declared their solidarity with the workers and have led the convergence of these issues with protests against a rise in fee structures and opposition to commercialization of education, according to the workers’ unions.