Union Minister of State for Labour Kodikunnil Suresh has urged trade unions to drop their plan to observe a nation-wide strike on February 20 and 21.

He was addressing a State general council meeting of the INTUC here.

“About 80 per cent of the demands of the trade unions are beyond the purview of the Labour Ministry. They should be considered by the Prime Minister and the Finance Minister,” he said.

He stated that that the ceiling on the provident fund would be raised to Rs. 15,000.

The plantation sector, he added, would be brought under the purview of the ESI Act. “Certain amendments to the Act are needed in this connection,” he said.

Inaugurating the meeting, INTUC national president G. Sanjeeva Reddy urged all workers to participate in the strike on February 20 and 21.

“It is a show of strength. The UPA’s policies have rendered life difficult for the common man. Wooing investors is the main concern of the government. The welfare of the common man is not in its agenda,” he said.

The demands of the trade unions include payment of minimum wages, abolition of contract labour, arresting rising prices of essential commodities, and withdrawal of ceiling on bonus and gratuity.

R. Chandrasekharan, INTUC state president, presided.

UDF convener P. P. Thankachan, Kannur District Congress Committee president and INTUC leader K. Surendran, and INTUC district president Sundaran Kunnathulli spoke.

In reply to a question posed by reporters, Mr. Chandrasekharan said that no section of workers had been left unrepresented at the meeting.

“If at all anyone has not attended the meeting, they have missed the opportunity. The allegation that large sections of members have stayed away is wrong,” he said.

Mr. Reddy said that differences, if any, were natural in a democratic body.