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Atal doesn’t like strike bar

New Delhi, Oct. 16: Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee today broke his silence on the Supreme Court judgment against strikes by government employees, assuring labour unions that he would find a solution based on “consensus”.

“You do not like the Supreme Court judgment. Perhaps, neither do I,” said Vajpayee while delivering his address at the 39th session of the Indian Labour Conference, when labour leaders pushed him into digressing from his written speech and giving an assurance.

Vajpayee, however, made it clear that he will only talk to those who are willing to come to a consensus. “All of us should sit down and find a way out,” said the Prime Minister.

This is the first time since the judgment in August that the government has spoken its mind on the ruling that has troubled the trade unions.

Leaders of various trade unions, including the Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh, spoke against the Supreme Court judgment. Indian National Trade Union Congress president Sanjeeva Reddy, who initially spoke on the verdict along with All India Trade Union Congress general secretary Gurudas Dasgupta, sought a response on the judgment from the Prime Minister.

The trade unions had been cut up with both Vajpayee and Union labour minister Sahib Singh Verma for maintaining a studied silence on the judgment. Trade unions want the government to bring a bill in Parliament that will overturn the judgment.

On August 6, the Supreme Court had ruled that government employees have no “constitutional and moral” right to go on strike. The judgment had come in the aftermath of a crackdown by the Tamil Nadu government on thousands of striking workers.

Taking cue from the Prime Minister, the Union labour minister also broke his silence. Verma said the judgment does not apply to those employees who are governed by the Industrial Disputes Act.

“State government employees are governed by service conduct rules, which in any case do not allow strikes. Till now they have been going on strike in violation of this code,” said Verma.

In his speech, Umraomal Purohit of the Hind Mazdoor Sabha said: “Out of the 34,000 central government employees, 18,000 are governed by IDA which lays down specific rules on how to conduct a strike.”

Verma said he would soon arrange a meeting of trade unions with the Prime Minister.

“It will be my responsibility to intervene if anybody opposes the right of employees who are governed by the Industrial Disputes Act to go on strike.”

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