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PM to discuss SC ruling on strikes with unions soon

By Our Staff Correspondent

NEW DELHI OCT.18. The Union Labour Minister, Sahib Singh Verma, will shortly call a meeting of trade union leaders with the Prime Minister, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, to discuss the fallout of the Supreme Court ruling on the right to strike. The Minister's efforts come after Mr. Vajpayee said on Thursday that there was need to arrive at a consensus on dealing with the situation arising out of the ruling.

Talking to reporters at the conclusion of the three-day 39th session of the Indian Labour Conference today, Mr. Verma said: "I have arranged for the trade unions to meet with the Prime Minister twice on different issues and would do it once again at the earliest.'' He had already discussed the matter with his officers, though it was not within his Ministry's jurisdiction.

Workers should have the right to go on strike if they had exhausted their grievance redress mechanism and had given the mandatory notice for strike, Mr. Verma said. The trade unions had the right to strike under the Industrial Disputes Act. However, the court ruling was more applicable to Government employees who were governed under the Conduct Rules. "The Supreme Court observation covers the grey areas since it cannot amend the Industrial Disputes Act which is an Act of Parliament,'' he said.

Mr. Verma said that while trade union representatives suggested that employees' social security should be safeguarded, employers felt that the `hire and fire' policy would create employment. But he was totally opposed to this. One issue on which almost everyone agreed was the passage of the Unorganised Sector Workers Bill, 2002, which gave social security to 37 million workers in the unorganised sector. The draft Bill had been cleared by the Group of Ministers and was likely to be passed in the next Cabinet meeting to be tabled in the winter session of Parliament.

The All-India Trade Union Congress has described the conference as a ritualistic exercise with "hardly any tangible result."

"If the Government wanted to simplify the labour laws to make it more effective for the workers who are under attack, there should have been preparatory deliberations at the tripartite level. We all want a change, but change for the better,'' its general secretary, Gurudas Das Gupta, said in a press release.

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