In the wake of the Madras High Court’s interim stay on the indefinite strike by employees of the Neyveli Lignite Corporation, relationship between trade unions and officials’ associations have been strained.

While trade unions are keen on exercising their “legal rights to go on strike,” officials are dithering as they do not enjoy the immunity provided under the Industrial Disputes Act.

Till the court order came, the officials’ associations, such as the NLC Graduate Engineers Association, the NLC Engineers’ Association, the National Graduate Engineers Association and the NLC Officers’ Association, were expressing solidarity with trade unions. The moment the court pronouncement came the officials opted out of joining the strike. This has created bad blood among trade union leaders and employees.

NLC Workers’ Progressive Union (affiliated to the Labour Progressive Federation) president P.Thirumavalavan told The Hindu that trade unions were anguished over the sudden U-turn made by officials.

“When the spectre of disinvestment was stalking the NLC on two occasions, in 2002 and 2006, officials’ associations and trade unions fought together and won the battle. But now the backtracking by the officials (on the strike) has caused heartburns,“ he said. Mr. Thirumavalavan said it could be that they wanted to retain their well-entrenched positions and to further go up in their career.

He added that the employees did not make any attempt to prevent the former from attending duty. Mr Thirumavalavan said, “It is my appeal to the officialdom that they must reconsider their stand and join the strike.” NLC Graduate Engineers’ Association K.Radhakrishna general secretary said, “The officials have only deferred going on strike.” The legal opinion is that that their joining the strike would attract contempt of court provision. Mr Radhakrishna further said, “The officials want to maintain good relationship with trade unions and want to safeguard industrial harmony.”

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