The Big Picture- Trade Union Strike: Why Is It On?
Recently, there was a nationwide strike by 10 central trade unions to protest against what they termed as government’s inaction on the 12 point charter of demands that they presented a year back. The strike paralyzed normal life in many states and affected sectors like transport, banking, insurance, automobile, oil, defence, education and many others. The government also announced that it was revising the basic minimum wages, one of the demands of the unions apart from other demands on bonus and social security. However, the trade unions rejected the offer and continued to go for strike except the Bhartiya Mazdoor Sangh (BMS).
Causes for the strike:
- The 12 point charter of demands contains price-rise through universalization 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 Rs.3, 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. However, most of the steps taken by government in this regard does not gel with the demands being made by the trade unions and goes in opposite direction.
- It was announced by the Union Labour Minister that the minimum wages for contract workers will be increased to Rs.10, 000 which didn’t come into effect. The government in the last minute announced a hike for un-skilled non-agricultural workers from Rs.246 to Rs.350 or Rs.9100 per month which is half of what is being demanded by the labour unions. The offer made is not significant as per trade unions because only 70 lakh workers employed in central government out of approximately 40 crore workforce will be taken care of under this change.
- Only some of the trade unions have been called upon for discussions and not all and it has been alleged that there is a confrontationist attitude of trade unions towards government. Notice for strike was sent five months ago but they were called for meeting only a few days back. There were no conclusions of the meeting held with the Advisory Board.
- The amendments proposed in different labour laws are pro employer and are less favourable for workers according to the trade unions.
A minimum wage has to be fixed in such a way that it can address concerns of industries, employers and workers together. The government is moving towards this process. Larger issues like FDI needs time to be sorted in best interest of the nation. Both permanent and contract workers need to be at par and differential wages will not solve this issue, therefore amendments in Minimum Wages Act is required. The government needs to act in a neutral way at present. It cannot agree to all the demands. It has to work in the larger interest of every stakeholder. Economy, resources, employment generation all has to be taken care of by the government.