Civilians Struggle as Transport Unions call for Strike in Tamil Nadu

The public buses in Tamil Nadu refused to function on January 5, 2018, in the wake of an indefinite strike called by 12 transport unions across the state, as reported by NDTV. The strike was announced on the evening of January 4th after the demands of the state transport workers union regarding salary increment was turned down by Transport Minister MR Vijayabaskar. A large number of commuters were left stranded at the bus stands as only a few buses plied in Chennai and other cities.

Reports from Times of India stated that the key demand of the transport workers was a hike in their wages, making it equivalent to the salary of the drivers in state government corporations. While the government was ready to boost the wages by 2.44%, the union insisted for 2.57% raise. The demands of the Labour Progressive Federation was supported by opposition party, Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) minister M. Shanmugam.

However, the workers associated with the ruling party, All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) refrained from joining the strike. Following the strike, A. Soundarrajan of Centre of Indian Trade Unions said that they would like to have further negotiations to solve the matter. Nonetheless, Vijayabaskar stated that the wage growth offered by the government is indisputable and advised the workers to return to their duties. He also added that the strike was a political agenda planted by the opposition party.

Tamil Nadu houses a navy of 22,500 buses with a workforce of 1.4 lakhs. The capital city, Chennai holds around 3,500 buses, as reported by Times of India. Thus the strike has put the citizens in a situation of inconvenience as 15,000 buses remained off the streets. This resulted in the unmanageable crowd in the Metro and suburban trains. Auto rickshaws took advantage of the situation and overcharged their passengers.

Nationwide petroleum strike on July 12

The All India Petrol Dealers Association (AIPDA) has called for a nationwide strike on July 12 to mark their protest against the lack of lack of transparency in the ‘petroleum pricing mode’ and installation of the automated system at pumps. The protest as the officials stated was pejorative of the new dynamic pricing model which started on June 16.

AIPDA organised a meeting with oil marketing companies (OMCs) on June 29. In the meeting, the bodies discussed the liberty of pricing and protection of free market. Although the OMCs acknowledged, AIPDA spokesperson added, “ they (OMCs) could not give us any specific date for implementation of price protection, for which we all walked out in protest. We were requested by OMCs to wait till 2 pm on June 30 for their reconsideration, yet no fruitful result has come out. Hence, we have decided to resort to a no-purchase agitation on July 5 and a no-purchase-no sale agitation on July 12 across the country.”

West Bengal Petroleum Dealers Association president Tushar Sen confirmed after stating, “our national body AIPDA has called the nationwide strike on July 12. Ahead of that, we won’t purchase any oil on July 5 as a mark of protest.”

North East India Petroleum Dealers Association separately called for a 24-hour strike in the Assamese capital Guwahati on Monday. The roots of their protest struck from an uninformed shut down of a retail outlet in the capital.

Sources: Indian Express and NDTV

State-owned banks nationwide strike hits banking operations

State-owned bank employees went on strike today, halting the banking operations. The day-long strike was called by nine bank unions comprising of officers, bank officials as well as clerks. The demands behind the strike are related to wages. According to All India Bank Employees Association (AIBEA) General Secretary CH Venkatachalam, around 10 lakh bankers joined the strike today.

The other demands included compensation for extra work put in by the bank workers during the initial process of demonetisation, criminal actions against wilful defaulters, recruitment in all banking positions. The union also protested against government proposed labour reforms and outsourcing of permanent jobs.

Top private lenders like ICICI Bank, HDFC Bank and Axis Bank however will continue to function normally but cheque clearing operations could be hit.

The employees of the IT departments of some of the participating state-owned banks were exempted from the strike. The online operations ran smoothly.

A conciliation meeting was held with the bank management association on February 21st which failed to come with any positive result and hence the strike was called.





All India Strike: What made the trade union members take the call?

The government has announced an increase in the minimum wage from Rs. 246 to Rs. 350.  This is a 42% increase in the wages for the unskilled, non-agricultural central government employees. Now the employees under the category – C can earn Rs. 9100 for 26 days of work.

But, even though the government agreed to make provisions to increase the minimum wages, the trade union members still held the all-India strike on Friday.  What has led them to take such steps? Here is a breakup:

The trade union had demanded a minimum wage of the workers under the C-category to Rs. 18,000 per month. For the Class A and Class B category, the demand of wages was Rs 26,560 and Rs 22,320 respectively. However, the government only agreed on the wages to be Rs 13,598 for category-A, Rs 11,362 for category-B and Rs 9,100 for the C-category which is half of the demanded wage amount. There is also an urban –rural divide existing in the allotment of categories of employees.

The modifications in the minimum wage will be made by the central government in accordance with the Minimum Wage Act (1948). The unskilled non-agricultural central government employment has 45 professions, some of which are-construction workers, mine workers, loaders and unloaders etc.

The states have agreed to realise the minimum wage amendment only if there are more than thousand registered employees in the particular employment. The largest number of scheduled jobs is registered in Assam at 105 in 2013. States like Bihar, Jharkhand and Orissa are close in competition with Assam in the number.

According to the National Floor Level Minimum Wage proposed by National Commission on Rural Labour (1991), a uniform wage structure was fixed at a minimum of Rs. 35 per day. This minimum wage was revised in the following years and currently the minimum wage stands at Rs 160 per day. The disadvantage of the recommendations made by the National Commission on Rural Labour is that it not mandatory in all the states in the country and therefore there is a great disparity in the minimum wages of different parts of the country due to a lack of statutory backing.

The states have been advised to not fix the minimum wage lower than the proposed wage. Few states in the country namely Delhi and Kerala, have a higher minimum than the wage announced by the government. The current problem is that in the absence of a set legal foundation backing the minimum wage in the various parts of the country, it can drop to a very low amount and the outrage of the trade union members seems to a backlash of the same situation.

18 lakh workers join strike over centre’s anti-labour reforms

Vital services like banking and public transport were impacted in parts of the country today as ten central trade unions went ahead with their one-day nationwide strike, even as the government appealed to them for calling off the agitation, which was boycotted by Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh (BMS) backed by the BJP and the National Front of Trade Unions.

The workers who were majorly from the banking, transport, port, shipping and oil and gas sectors, alleged that the BJP-led union ministry has been indifferent to their demands for higher wages.

The initial reports suggested that up to 15 crore workers might join the bandh, the trade unions claimed that around 18 lakh workers have responded to their call.

 According to reports, in several parts of the country services got affected; in Delhi, nurses and radiologists announced indefinite strike till their demands are fulfilled. In an instance reported, a group of protesting nurses were manhandled by the police and were detained by allegedly dragging them into the bus.

In Kerala and Karnataka schools and colleges remained shut as public transports were partially hit. Mumbai incidentally did not see much of a difference since the railway functioned as Indian Railways did not participate in the strike.

Clashes were reported in and around West Bengal while Siliguri Mayor Ashok Bhattacharya got arrested along with 15 other protestors.

The trade unions released a joint statement on Thursday stating the unresponsive and undemocratic attitude of the government, alleged the announcements made by the Committee of Ministers to be an eyewash to which they also added that no major demands has been accepted.

The centre to this strike seems to be the dissatisfaction of the workers on the meagre raise of wage to only Rs 9100 per month.

Sources: Scroll  NDTV

Karnataka facing the brunt of the all-India ‘bandh’

As the nation prepares itself for Fridays’ big strike announced by the trade union, concerns are rising among the common people due to the unavailability of public transport. The strike largely affects the office goers who will be unable to report at their workplaces. With the Auto and Cab drivers complying with the strike, people are losing out on alternate transportation options.

Karnataka is joining the states which are supporting the strike called by the union traders. Friday’s strike will mark to fifth such incident in the past couple of months which saw a halt in the public transportation. Earlier, such strikes were a rare phenomenon, but lately, with the growing number if such incidents, Karnataka seems to be following the likes of West Bengal (Bengal) and Kerala in the frequency of trade union strikes. Bangalore, the capital of Karnataka is one of the fastest growing cities in the country in the recent past. With the IT boom, Bangalore has managed to get the country’s GDP growing at a very fast pace but with the recent instances of strikes, Bangalore also seems to be facing a severe beating.

Various firms which need employees to be working during the nationwide strike are now making arrangements for the commute of the essential staff to the workspace. HRs of firms are now drawing lists in order to figure out the indispensable employees which have to report to the office. Many offices have extended the option of working from for the employees, keeping in mind the inconvenience and safety issues.

Bangalore was a booming industrial city in Karnataka because it did not get affected by the various political conflicts and the tiff with the union. With the growing cases of strikes in the state, Karnataka is losing out on capital and industrialists and IT firms might soon retreat from the state just like in the case of the communist dominant states of Kerala and Bengal. Contrarily, The West Bengal Chief Minister has refrained from complying with the Friday strike.

The union members do have a fair right to call a strike to meet their demands and negotiating with the government but the incidents of violence during this period is the biggest cause of concern. In many cities across the nation, cabs and other vehicles on the road have been destructed.  These incidents also expose the lack of adequate policing and that a handful of people are trying to exploit the situation in their favour.

With the shutting down of the country, huge losses will be incurred by the economy. According to industry experts, the city is set to lose hundreds of crores if it comes to a standstill and a day-long strike will zero out on a day’s revenue which otherwise ranges from Rs120-140 crore. Bangalore primarily is a service based industrial city and the bandh will not be of any gain as it is mainly associated with those who are in the manufacturing sector.

Strikes are one of the major reason due to which the country has failed to establish a strong industrial hold and now due to the trade union’s efforts to show power and disrupt hierarchy, the city is suffering a great deal. Brand Bangalore is now at stake due to the blackmailing tactics used by the trade union members and the support of counterproductive measures by the state government for political gains. In this situation, the city is facing adversities and bleeds of its revenues.

Source: TOI  Navbharat Times

Banks strike tomorrow, customer service to be hit

Normal banking operations would take a hit across India, as thousands of bank employees would go on a strike on 29th July. The United Forum of Banks Unions (UFBU), an umbrella organisation of several banks would go on with the strike. The unions that will join the nationwide strike include All India Bank Employees Association (AIBEA), National Confederation of Bank Employees (NCBE), Bank Employees Federation of India (BEFI), National Organisation of Bank Workers (NOBW), and All India Bank Officers’ Confederation (AIBOC).  Various banks including SBI has already informed their customers that they may face difficulty in various banking services due to the strike. The strike is likely to affect various services such as cheque clearances, cash deposit, cash withdrawals from ATM and various other facilities.

According to AIBEA’s General Secretary C.H. Venkatachalam, the meeting which took place with the Chief Labor Commissioner, did not yield any positive results. The United Forum of Banks Unions however mentioned that if their demands are considered they would call of the strike. The union is pressing for various demands which includes not to privatize public sector banks and increase private capital in such banks.

Sources: Live Mint, The New Indian Express