Ten central trade unions on Monday expected 20 crore workers to respond to their call for a nationwide general strike on January 8 and 9.
The strike was called in protest against the Modi government’s “anti-worker, anti-national” policies, including unilateral labour law reforms, privatisation of public sector entities, policies encouraging contract work and destroying job security, and the proposed amendment to the Trade Union Act. “This is the largest strike against this government, with more than 20 crore workers expected to participate. It is a historic moment,” Tapan Sen, general secretary of the Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU), said on Monday.
The strike is backed by all central trade unions, except the Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh, which is affiliated to the RSS.
Apart from unorganised workers, unions from a number of formal sectors, including banks, transport corporations, water, power, post, telecom, health, education, defence, coal, steel and manufacturing, are expected to participate. They have already issued notice to employers, as legally required, said Amarjeet Kaur, general secretary of the All India Trade Union Congress.
“So far, there has been no response from the Centre to our strike call. There has been no attempt to reach out to the unions,” she added.
The government has undermined the spirit of tripartism and is making labour policy without consultation with workers’ representatives, said Ms. Kaur, pointing out that the Group of Ministers on labour issues, headed by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley had not called unions for any discussion since September 2015. The Indian Labour Conference had not been held for three and a half years, and unions had boycotted the discussions on labour codes after their suggestions were rejected.
“Ever since the strike call has been made, the Modi government has increased its pace of attacks on workers instead of dialogue with the unions,” said Mr. Sen.
A CITU statement condemned the Delhi government, under the order of the Lieutenant Governor, for evoking the Essential Services Maintenance Act (ESMA) against employees of power utilities in the capital, barring them from joining the strike. State governments, including West Bengal and Tamil Nadu, have also threatened workers with termination of service, service break and eight-day wage cuts, it said.