Representatives of 11 trade unions on Wednesday rejected an appeal by Union Labour and Employment Minister Mallikarjun Kharge to withdraw their nationwide strike called for February 20 and 21 and said there was no question of reconsidering the decision.

Mr. Kharge, accompanied by his Minister of State Kodikunnil Suresh and other officials, who held a meeting with the representatives of the trade unions here on Wednesday, assured them that he would discuss their demands with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and take early action.

However, president of the Centre for Indian Trade Union (CITU), the labour wing of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), A.K. Padmanabhan, who participated in the meeting, told The Hindu that there was no question of reconsidering the stir as the decision was taken after giving ample time to the government. These were not new issues as the trade unions had been pressing them for the last four years.

Among other things, the trade unions, including the Indian National Trade Union Congress (INTUC), the labour wing of the Congress, are protesting price rise, and seeking employment generation, strict enforcement of labour laws, universal social security for unorganised and organised workers, and halting of disinvestment in Central and State public sector undertakings. Some of the specific issues raised by them related to payment of minimum wages of Rs.10,000 a month, abolition of contract labour, payment of equal wages and benefits to contract workers on a par with regular workers, removal of all ceilings on payment and eligibility of bonus, provident fund, increasing the quantum of gratuity, guaranteed pension for all, and compulsory registration of trade unions within 45 days and immediate ratification.

Earlier, Mr. Kharge informed the union representatives of the steps taken by the government to control inflation, arrest price rise, promote investment and ensure industrial growth, which would lead to greater employment opportunities. It was clarified that even after disinvestment the government would retain 51% of the shareholding and management control of Central Public Sector Enterprises and partial disinvestment would not affect the public sector character of such undertakings or their labour and employment policy.

Among others trade union representatives A.N. Dogra (BMS), G. Sanjiva Reddy (INTUC), Gurudas Dasgupta (AITUC), H.S. Sidhu (HMS), Tapan Sen (CITU), R.A. Mittal (HMS), R.K. Sharma (AITUC), G. Devarajan (TUCC), D.L. Sachdev (AITUC), Rajiv Dimri (AICCTU), S.K. Roy, AICCTU), M. Hanmugam (LPF), Ashok Ghosh (UTUC) and P.J. Raju (UTUC) participated in the meeting.

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