Normal life hit as trade unions' day-long nationwide strike
Normal life was affected in various parts of the country, including West Bengal and Kerala, as 10 Central trade unions today went on a day-long nationwide strike to protest against changes in labour laws and privatisation of PSUs.
BJP-backed BMS and NFITU, however, stayed away from the strike.
Trade union leaders claimed that around 15 crore formal sector workers are on strike in support of their 12-point charter of demands.
The day-long strike was seen affecting transport and banking operations among other services.
In Kolkata, partial impact was seen on suburban trains while shops, markets and business establishments in most areas remained closed.
State administration was plying a large fleet of public buses while partial impact was seen on operations of private buses and taxis.
In the National Capital, commuters faced problems as a large number of autos and taxis remained off the roads.
In Kerala, public and private bus services, taxis and autorickshaws were off the roads. Only few private cars and two wheelers were seen on the roads.
Shops, hotels and even small tea stalls were closed in the state.
The government had yesterday appealed trade unions call off the agitation in the interest of workers and nation.
The unions however decided to go ahead with strike as their talks with a ministerial panel headed by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley last month did not make any headway on their 12-point charter of demands.
Trade unions’ 12-point charter of demands includes urgent measures to contain price rise, contain unemployment, strict enforcement of basic labour laws, universal social security cover for all workers and minimum wage of Rs 15,000 per month.
They are also demanding enhanced pension for workers, stoppage of disinvestment in PSUs, stoppage of contractorisation, removal of ceiling on bonus and provident fund, compulsory registration of trade unions within 45 days, no amendment to labour laws unilaterally, stopping of FDI in Railways, defence, etc.
Meanwhile, a top leader of the All-India Bank Employees’ Association (AIEBA) today said the nationwide strike in the banking and insurance sector has begun on a very “encouraging” note signifying “total success”.
“The strike has started on an encouraging note across the country as per initial information we got. Employees of Reserve Bank of India (RBI), nationalised banks, old private sector banks, cooperative banks, regional rural banks are participating in the strike,” AIEBA general secretary C.H. Venkatachalam told IANS.
According to him, strike is a success in major cities like Mumbai, Delhi, Chennai and Kolkata.
Across the country around 5,00,000 bankers — workers and officers — are participating in the strike. Around 75,000 branches will not work.
The strike was called in support of the 12-point charter of demands of the 10 Central Trade Unions.
The unions in the banking and insurance sectors are participating in the strike in support of the 12-point charter as well as pressing the issues in their sectors.
Complaining of increasing attacks on the rights and privileges of workers and concessions being extended to the employers, Venkatachalam said there are open attempts to amend labour laws in favour of the employers and to the detriment of the workers.
The neo-liberal economic policies are only aggravating the problems of the workers and common masses.
Venkatachalam said in the banking sector, there are continuous attempts to push through the reforms agenda aimed at privatisation of banks, consolidation and merger of banks and others.
“More and more private capital and foreign direct investments are being encouraged. Private sector companies are being given licences to begin banking business,” he said.
According to him, Regional Rural Banks are sought to be privatised and a bill has been passed in parliament despite protests from employee unions.
The real problem of increasing bad loans is not being effectively handled by the Government but on the other hand, crore of rupees are being written off from profits of banks, Venkatachalam said.
“Deliberate and willful default of bank loans should be termed as criminal offence and money recovered but no action is being taken on them,” he added.
“As on March 31, 2015, there are 7,035 cases of willful defaulters involving bad loans of Rs.58,792 crore.
“The bad loans in the Banks as on March 31, 2015, has risen to 2,97,000 crore in addition to another Rs.4,03,004 crore of bad loans of 530 corporate companies shown as rescheduled and restructured loans under CDR (corporate debt restructuring) scheme,” Venkatachalam said.
According to him bad loans struck up in top 30 borrowal accounts of public sector banks as on March 31, 2015, is Rs. 1,21,162 crore.
Unions in State Bank of India (SBI) and Indian Overseas Bank (IOB) are not participating in the strike.
“Perhaps it shows their imperial attitude,” a union official told IANS preferring anonymity and punning on SBI’s earlier name Imperial Bank.
“All the major recognised unions representing Class III and IV employees in Life Insurance Corporation of India (LIC) and four government owned non-life insurers are participating in the strike,” J.Gurumurthy, vice-president, All-India Insurance Employees Association (AIIEA) told IANS.