To protest the newly-amended labour reforms by the Narendra Modi government and its decision to close some loss-making PSUs, close to a million telecom, banking and manufacturing sector employees will observe a day-long strike called by all central trade unions on September 2.
Earlier on Tuesday, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley had declared release of pending bonus to government employees. The decision was taken jointly in an emergency meeting called by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday and attended by Jaitley, Power Minister Piyush Goyal and Labour Minister Bandaru Dattatreya.
Following the meeting, an appeal was made to the trade unions who had rejected government's plea to call off the strike.
"Releasing bonus is one thing. It has got nothing to do with the 12 demands that we had placed before this government to consider during our strike last year. So far, there had not been any tangible, proactive steps from the government to resolve workers' issues," said Tapan Sen, convenor of the September 2 strike and general secretary of Centre of Trade Unions.
"It is clear that the government has not considered any of our demands from the 12-point charter. The unions have no other option but to fight for their rights," Indian National Trade Union Congress Vice President Ashok Singh said.
Almost all central trade unions, including Congress-backed INTUC, CITU and AIBEA besides RBI and Railway employees have said they will observe the strike. So far, only RSS-backed Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh (BMS) has backed out from the strike. It has also asked its affiliates to do so.
BMS General Secretary Virjesh Upadhyay, in a statement issued on Tuesday, said the union is satisfied with the hike in minimum wages that ensures a minimum Rs 9,100 for any grade-C central government employees vis-a-vis unions' demand to raise the minimum wages to Rs 18,000 per month.
"The government's minimum wage announcement is completely inadequate. The strike stands and we demand they should enact a law to fix minimum (universal) wage," All India Trade Union Congress General Secretary Gurudas Dasgupta said.
The trade unions and the bank employee unions had been pushing for 12 major demands since September last year, when they had called a day-long strike. These include raising the minimum wage from Rs 9,000 to Rs 18,000 per month. A pay hike for bank employees is pending since November 2012.
The unions, among many other issues, are also opposed to the recent easing of rules by the government for foreign investment, particularly in sectors like pharmaceutical and defence.
Speaking at the Global Investors' Conference in Mumbai, Union Minister Piyush Goyal asserted that the proposed trade union strike would not have any impact on the supply of coal.
"We have sufficient supply of coal. Even if no coal is mined for the next 50-60 days, the power industry can be assured that they would get an uninterrupted supply of coal to keep their plants running," Goyal said, allaying fears of a shortage due to the strike.
However, a worried West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Bannerjee has taken objection to the strike call and moved a petition against the organising trade unions in the Calcutta High Court.
Meanwhile, government is also gearing up to ensure minimal disruption due to the strike call. "Departments like food and supply and ministry of transport and highways are also taking measures to ensure that daily life is not hampered due to the strike call," said a labour ministry spokesperson.