Last-ditch efforts to avert strike fail

Chennai April 9. A majority of the staff at the State Secretariat, the seat of power in Tamil Nadu, are likely to keep off work tomorrow as the last-ditch efforts by the Government to stave off the one-day strike called by a section of the employees union failed tonight.

However, the proceedings in the Assembly will not be affected as the staff of the Legislature department have decided not to take part in the strike called by the JACTTEO-GEO (Joint Action Council of Teachers and Employees Organisations) demanding restoration of the pension and gratuity benefits withdrawn recently.

As a last-minute appeasement strategy, the Government agreed to release the gratuity in full cash instead of offering 50 per cent in small saving scrips and also work out the pension commutation table favourably, provided they called off the stir.

But, the JACTTEO-GEO, comprising various employees unions including the Tamil Nadu Secretariat Association, stuck to their demand of restoring all the benefits. "We were willing to offer them concessions worth Rs.400 to 500 crores despite the financial crisis. But they refused to accept the offer," said a Government source.

Meanwhile, the Government issued circulars to all the heads of departments not to provide casual leave to any employee and that no pay would be paid for the strike period.

With the Government enacting the Essential Services Maintenance Act, under which those instigating strike could be sentenced to three years imprisonment, the stringent law could also be used against the striking employees if necessary, the source said. However, since it was only one-day strike, the Government would use it only as a last option in case of the union representatives resorted to violence, he added.

However, Joint Action Council of Government Officials and Teachers and Tamil Nadu Arasu Aluvalar Kazhagam (C and D) have decided to attend work, while the Tamil Nadu Officials Union, which announced yesterday that it may join the strike, has decided to stick to its original plan of hunger strike tomorrow.