All-India strike by trade unions today; to hit banking, transport

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In a repeat of the general labour strike of 2015, September 2, 2016, will, once again, see crores of workers across India go on strike to protest labour conditions and government policies, say trade unions as they gear up for Friday. This, despite last minute announcements by the Finance minister Arun Jaitley on Tuesday that increased minimum wage.

The unions leading the strike are largely communist trade outfits and those associated with the Congress, as major banking unions deferred the strike after an appeal by the Indian Banks Association and the Regional Labour Commissioner, Mumbai, on Thursday.

Ten unions have laid out a 12 point charter of demands, incidentally, the same as the one they gave the centre last year. Said AK Padmanabhan, president Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU), “From August 27, 2015, till now, the committee of ministers led by Jaitley that has to look at our demands has not spoken to us. It is a false statement that the centre has implemented the new minimum wage after discussions with us.” The only time the centre spoke to them this year, he said, was in July when Bandaru Dattatreya, labour minister, called them for a meeting. “We attended that meeting, though we wrote to him saying that it should be the committee talking to us, not just him,” said Padmanabhan.

The new minimum wage of Rs350 a day seems to have taken the unions by surprise, as the government, apparently, never gave them any such proposal. Their demand remains Rs18,000 per month, more than the current revised rate.

The charter also demands containing price-rise through universalisation of public distribution system and banning speculative trade in commodity market; containing unemployment; universal social security cover for all workers; enhanced pension not less than Rs3,000 per month for the entire working population; stoppage of disinvestment in Central/State PSUs; no amendments in labour laws, no FDI in railways, insurance and defence.

Much of these seem at odds with government policy, which has seen changes in labour and industry laws and radically opening FDI in various sectors.set to go on what they hope will be an even bigger strike than last that of 2015.

The unions, such as CPI(M) affiliated CITU, CPI associated All India Trade Union Congress, one of the oldest unions in the country, the Congress’ trade union Indian National Trade Union Congress, Self Employed Women’s Association, have banded together to call a strike across organised and unorganised sectors workers from telecom, electricity, transport, coal, steel. Last year 14 to 15 crore workers refused to go to work, this year, said AK Padmanaban, CITU president, it will surely be more.

Like last year, the RSS affiliated Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh too backed out.

Padmanabhan adds they have support from various regional trade organisations and political outfits such as support from the BJD in Odisha, help in campaigning from the TRS’ trade union wing in Telangana, from dalit organisations in Tamil Nadu.

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