Railway Minister M. Mallikarjun Kharge said the channels for the discussions with the recognised and other unions in the Railways have been opened for averting the indefinite strike call given by the Railway unions opposing, among other things, the new pension scheme for the railwaymen.
Addressing a press conference here on Saturday, Mr. Kharge said Railway Board Chairman Arunendra Kumar and other members have been asked to hold talks with the representatives of various unions to persuade them to withdraw the strike call.
Exuding confidence that the Railwaymen would not implement their threat to go on strike, Mr. Kharge said the “representatives of unions were wise and would [be] cooperative with the Railways by not resorting [to] the strike at this juncture in the interest of the people and also save the biggest Public Sector Industry in the world.”
He said after he took over, almost all the demands made by the Railwaymen were conceded and one of the major benefits extended to the employees was the conceding the demand to increase the production linked bonus to 78 days instead of 73 days as worked out for this year overruling the objections of the Finance Ministry.
“The issue was taken by me to the Cabinet and got its approval for increasing the production linked bonus levels to 78 days.”
Another major demand of the Railwaymen pending for long for doing away the written test for the children of the retired Railwaymen and those recruited under the compassionate grounds for Group D posts in the Railways and recruit them based on their merit, and conducting the skill and physical tests has been conceded. With the re-classification of the posts, a promotional avenue for the Group C employees working in the Railways was opened up. This was also one of the demands placed by the unions.
Mr. Kharge said all the demands placed by the Railwaymen cannot be implemented at one go and the workers should also give time for the Railways to implement these demands.
The demand pertaining to the scrapping of the new pension plan was a policy decision taken by the Finance Ministry for all the government employees, including those working in the Railways, and any decision in this regard would have to be taken by the Finance Ministry.
To a question, Mr. Kharge said the investigation into the fire incident in the Bangalore-Nanded Express train which killed 26 persons has not yet been completed.
He said he expected the final findings of the forensic and the Railway Safety Commissioner to be available within a fortnight.
>> A sentence in “Will hold talks with unions on strike: Kharge” (Jan. 5, 2014) read: “Another major demand … those recruited under the compensatory grounds … has been conceded.” It should have been compassionate grounds.
Keywords: Railway union strike