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Unions jittery over strike ban

New Delhi, May 17: Trade union leaders are apprehensive of a court order banning the general industrial strike on May 21, called in protest against the Centre’s economic policies.

“The government can move court. But we will not be cowed down,” All India Trade Union Congress general secretary Gurudas Das Gupta told a news conference today.

The fear stems from experience after high courts in three states declared strikes illegal on the ground that they cause inconvenience to people and that trade unions were going on strike even when the conciliation process was not complete.

The unions had served a strike notice on May 6. The Central labour commissioner has invited labour leaders for conciliation talks on May 19 — two days before the scheduled strike.

“We will attend the meeting, but will turn down the offer. Our demand is a reversal of the government’s economic policies,” the Aituc general secretary maintained.

The Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh and the Indian National Trade Union Congress will stay out of the strike.

“The RSS has told the BMS not to go on strike against the government’s policies,” said a Centre of Indian Trade Union leader.

The Intuc has always maintained it is against strikes because it disrupts production. “But their local units are going to join the strike,” the Citu leader added.

Till a year ago, trade unions of all hues were together in all forms of protest actions. The BMS was as staunch a critic of the Vajpayee government’s economic policies as the Left trade unions.

This time, seven trade unions, including the Citu, the Aituc, the Hind Mazdoor Sabha, the United Trade Union Congress (Lenin Sarani) and the Trade Union Coordination Committee have called the strike.

“Independent federations of bankmen, insurance employees, defence workers, the confederation of Central government employees and telecom unions will be part of the strike,” Das Gupta said.

The Aituc general secretary added that the decision of the BMS and Intuc to stay away from the strike will not lessen its impact.

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