“It was just a matter of give and take,” said Finance Minister K.M. Mani on Monday, when journalists asked him how the government employees’ strike was settled during the previous night’s discussion with the unions.
Mr. Mani’s diplomacy is generally seen as the key element that helped bring about the settlement of the six-day strike over the government’s decision to introduce contributory pension for government employees joining service from April this year.
Chief Minister Oommen Chandy had taken the stand he would not call the striking unions for talks since he had nothing new to say. At the same time he had said he would surely discuss with the unions if they wanted to meet him for that purpose.
And there were signs of flagging support to the strike, with the protesting employees not displaying the kind of vigour that could make a difference. As it transpired, all it required to end the impasse was for the two sides to sit across the same table.
Answering questions at a press conference called to announce lottery matters, Mr. Mani, who had talked to the union leaders before they met the Chief Minister last night, said the decision to implement the contributory pension scheme had already been taken by the government. So the concern was whether the future employees who would come under the scheme would be adversely affected during the implementation of the decision.
Mr. Mani said the suggestion was that there should be a mechanism to ensure that complaints in this respect were properly examined and resolved. The government could have no objection to such a suggestion, Mr. Mani said, meaning that this promise on the part of the government, during the union leaders’ meeting with the Chief Minister, was the thing that brought about an amicable settlement of the strike.
A journalist asked Mr. Mani whether the settlement of the strike would mean the unions had accepted the implementation of the contributory pension scheme. Mr. Mani replied he surely believed the unions were agreed on the point.