10 key trade unions have upped the ante to go on a day-long nation-wide strike to protest against the changes in labour laws and privatisation of PSUs. Normal life has been hit in several parts of the country, especially in West Bengal and Kerala.
Transport and banking operations have been affected in most places as 13 lakh employees from public, private and foreign banks have joined the agitation.
“Around 13 lakh employees and officers rom 25 public sector banks, 11 private sector banks and nine foreign banks will be on strike tomorrow,” said All-India Bank Employees Association (AIBEA) on Tuesday.
The bank unions are also protesting against the government’s plan to revamp the working of the public sector banks.
“We will fight against the government’s backdoor attempts to hand over public sector to corporates,” said AIBEA .
According to union leaders around 15 crore formal sector workers are on strike in support of their 12-point charter of demands.
BJP-backed unions BMS and NFITU have stayed away from the strike.
The unions are demanding urgent measures to contain price rise and unemployment, strict enforcement of basic labour laws, universal social security cover for all workers and minimum wage of Rs 15,000 per month.
In the 12-point charter, the unions also demand enhanced pension for workers, stoppage of disinvestment in PSUs, 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.
In Delhi, commuters faced problems as a large number of autos and taxis remained off the roads.
In Kolkata, shops, markets and business establishments in most areas remained closed. State administration plied a large fleet of buses but private bus and taxi operators mostly stayed away from the roads. The suburban trains were partially operating.
The strike has been mostly successful in Kerala as public and private buses, taxis and autorickshaws have not been plying. Shops, hotels and even small tea stalls remained closed in the state. To minimise the impact of the strike the state government in Kerala had said that they were going to apply ‘no work, no pay’ policy for its employees.
On Tuesday, the government had appealed to the trade unions call off their agitation but the unions decided to go ahead with it. The unions held talks with a ministerial panel headed by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley last month but that did not see much headway.
“I don’t think essential services will be affected by the strike. I feel that the impact will not be much,” Union Labour Minister Bandaru Dattatreya was heard saying on Tuesday, a day ahead of the strike.
(With inputs from PTI)