Govt statement on proposed strike ritualistic

New Delhi: Rejecting the government`s appeal to desist from the proposed countrywide strike on February 28, major trade unions have said they would not consider such a "ritualistic statement" as there has been no genuine move to consider workers` demand.

The general strike, which has been called to protest the "anti-labour" policies of the government, would cover all sectors barring Railways.

AITUC general secretary Gurudas Dasgupta said the government`s appeal has come "too late" as it had the opportunity to discuss workers` issues at the recently- concluded Indian Labour Congress but it "never displayed any seriousness".

The unions had on December 2 last year decided to go on strike on February 28.

"It is good that it has appealed though late in the day. If the government was serious, when the issue was raised in the Indian Labour Conference, they could have discussed it with the trade unions.

"Even the prime minister himself was made aware but government did not move… It (the appeal) is just a formality. We are not ready to consider such a ritualistic statement on the part of the government," he said.

Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU) leader Dipankar Mukherjee said the Labour Ministry`s appeal to desist from observing the strike does not hold merit as it is the "weakest ministry" which has failed to end sufferings of the workers.

The Labour Ministry had on Friday appealed to the trade unions to desist from going on strike, saying it was ready to discus with them any kind of labour-related issue.

The trade unions are demanding no contractorisation of work — permanent or perennial nature, amendment of Minimum Wages Act, assured pension for all and compulsory registration of trade union among others.

Dasgupta said it was for the first time in history that all the 11 major trade unions, including UPA ally Indian Union Muslim League`s trade-wing STU, have joined hands to support the strike. Even Shiv Sena-affiliated Bharatiya Kamgar Sena is participating in the strike, he said.

Others such as Congress-backed Indian National Trade Union Congress (INTUC) and BJP`s Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh would also join the strike, Dasgupta said, lauding INTUC president G Sanjeeva Reddy for being the "most consistent fighter in our joint struggle".

However, he was critical of the West Bengal government`s decision to oppose the strike.

"There could be problem in West Bengal the way the state government is handling this. The aggressive mentality taken is not to be seen anywhere. Strike is a legitimate right of the workers and is guaranteed under the constitution and is part of the ILO conventions," he said.

Mukherjee, on the other hand, said the fight was against the lack of will of the government to heed to the demands of workers.

"It`s been over a year now, but the Labour Ministry has failed to do anything on the Contract Labour Amendment Act which would give contract workers all benefits enjoyed by regular workers," he said.