Trade unions strike evokes mixed response on Day 1, complete bandh in Kerala

PTI
Tuesday, 8 January 2019

Central trade unions, except RSS-affiliate Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh, launched the two-day nationwide strike Tuesday to protest against proposed labour reforms and worker policies of the BJP-led government. The bandh partly affected the public life in most of the states and Union Territories.

NEW DELHI: The strike by 10 central trade unions evoked a mixed response on Tuesday as five states, including Kerala, Odisha and Assam, witnessed complete bandh while sporadic incidents of violence were reported in West Bengal and Rajasthan.

Central trade unions, except RSS-affiliate Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh, launched the two-day nationwide strike Tuesday to protest against proposed labour reforms and worker policies of the BJP-led government. The bandh partly affected the public life in most of the states and Union Territories.

Employees and workers in sectors such as steel, oil, mines, dock and port, transport, and insurance joined the strike, unions said.

Banking and postal services were affected across the country as a section of employees abstained from work, according to reports from various parts of the country.

In West Bengal, several protesters were arrested after sporadic incidents of vandalism were reported from parts of the state during the strike. Stones were pelted at a school bus in Champadali area of Barasat in North 24 Parganas district. A government bus was also ransacked by strike supporters at Champadali. Protestors also vandalised a bus at Jamuria in Paschim Bardhaman district.

As many as 22 policemen were injured in Rajasthan following clashes at the manufacturing plant of a Japanese company as workers, who were supporting the stir, tried to enter its premises, police said.

Union leaders claimed that 50 workers injured in the police action against protesters.

The General Secretary of All India Trade Union Congress (AITUC), Amarjeet Kaur, claimed that five states and a UT saw complete bandh on the first day of the strike.

"As many as five states of Assam, Kerala, Manipur, Meghalaya, Odisha, and the union territory of Puducherry witnessed complete bandh while other states like Karnataka, Delhi, Goa, West Bengal reported 100 per cent strike by workers today," Kaur told PTI.

Bandh means that all type of establishments like schools, colleges, hospitals, post offices, banks, industrial units remain closed while 100 per cent strike means that workers abstained from work, Kaul explained.

Kaur said that banking and postal services across the country were affected as workers in these sectors went on strike. In the power sector, engineers and electricity workers did not join duties.

Bank unions All India Bank Employees' Association (AIBEA) and Bank Employees' Federation of India (BEFI) have supported the strike.

However, operations at SBI and private sector banks remained unaffected as seven other bank unions are not taking part in the strike.

Mining activity was also affected badly as the segment reported 100 per strike along with tea plantations and beedi workers, AITUC said.

Trains were stopped in Kerala, while buses and autorickshaws were off the road, hitting normal life, according to reports from the state. Workers from various sectors have extended support to the two-day strike.

The strike also disrupted rail and road traffic in Odisha on Tuesday. Train services were hit as trade union activists staged rail roko at places like Bhubaneswar, Cuttack, Puri, Balasore, Jaleswar, Bhadrak, Sambalpur, Berhampur and Paradip.

Over a dozen trains were delayed due to blockade of railway tracks by strike supporters, leaving a large number of passengers stranded at many places, reports said.

More than 20 lakh employees and workers of public, private and unorganised sectors in Telangana participated in the strike, reports from the state suggested.

Meanwhile, more than 32,000 employees of Mumbai's civic transport undertaking went on an indefinite strike Tuesday over various demands, including higher salaries, prompting the state government to invoke the Maharashtra Essential Services Maintenance Act (MESMA) against them.

Bus services in Karnataka were also affected as vehicles of the Karnataka State Road Transport Corporation (KSRTC) stayed off the road. In many districts, a holiday was declared in schools and colleges, with examinations being postponed.

In Goa, thousands of workers walked in a march in the state capital in support of the strike. However, normal life remained unaffected in Panaji and other parts of the coastal state where local unions would observe a strike Wednesday.

A member of the National Federation of Atomic Energy Employees (NFAEE) said, "We are supporting the strike called by various trade unions to press for our long-pending demand related to pension."

Other trade unions affiliated to NFAEE such as Atomic Energy Workers' And Staff Union, Bhabha Atomic Research Centre and NFC Industrial Workers Union are also observing the strike.

Bank unions said employees are opposing privatisation of banks and consolidation in the banking sector.

"Workload of various bank employees has increased as they are busy implementing the government's flagship programmes such as Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana, Aadhaar linkages and Atal Pension Yojana, among others. As against this, there has not been any adequate wage revision," AIBEA said.

Central trade union CITU said, "The unprecedented expanse and active participation of the workers in the two-day strike is a clear indication of the extent of anger and resentment of the workers against the neo-liberal policies and the attacks on their working and living conditions perpetrated by the government's policies."

It claimed that road transport was seriously affected in most of the states, including Kerala, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Bihar, Haryana, Punjab and Uttarakhand.

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