The UPA govt is bracing for a mega strike on Tuesday, backed by trade unions cutting across party lines, in protest against rising prices, disinvestment of profit-making PSUs and violation of labour laws among other reasons.
They will be joined by around 8 lakh bank employees who are protesting against reforms and outsourcing of jobs.
Almost all sectors, except railways, are likely to come to a stop on Tuesday.The strike will be backed by most of the country’s trade unions, including 11 central trade unions and 5,000 smaller unions, who refused to negotiate with the government after being called for talks at the last minute.
Interestingly, apart from trade unions affiliated to the Left, trade unions of BJP, Shiv Sena and UPA ally Indian Union Muslim League and even Congress have all come together to hit out at the government.
According to senior union leaders, the strike will be near-total in Assam, Kerala, Haryana, Punjab, Tamil Nadu and Bihar.
The striking trade unions include the Left labour arms CITU, AITUC, UTUC and AIUTUC, and Congress’s INTUC, besides BMS, HMS, TUCI and NLO who have joined forces in support of a 10-point charter of demands.
“This is the biggest formation of trade unions ever,” said senior CPI leader Gurudas Dasgupta, who also heads the All India Trade Union Council.
“Except the railways which has been left out, most industries like banks including RBI, PSUs, transport, telecom, oil companies and mines will come under the purview of the strike and it is going to be unprecedented.”
West Bengal may witness clashes as the Mamata Banerjee government is pulling out all stops to ensure that the strike does not succeed.
It remains to be seen whether the erstwhile Left bastion is able to pull off a strike on Tuesday.
The Congress, which is a coalition partner in Bengal, has supported Banerjee’s move, though INTUC is very much part of the formation that has called the strike.
The strikers have opposed privatization and disinvestment of state-run sectors, “unbridled” corruption and price rise, and demanded steps to prevent industrial owners from breaking labour laws, social security for unorganized sector workers, amendment in the minimum wage act and abolition of contract worker system.
In contrast to the Left regime in Bengal, the nine-month-old Trinamool dispensation has already issued a circular barring its staff from taking leave on February 28.
Senior ministers have been threatening departmental employees with dire consequences if they join the strike and a series of meetings are being held at the state secretariat to make foolproof arrangements for keeping life normal.