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Citu push for joint strike

Chennai, Dec. 10: The Citu today said it will back a nationwide strike called by government staff associations on February 11 to defend the right to strike, but preferred all the central trade unions to jointly decide on the protest soon.

The Intuc and the Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh (BMS) — affiliated to the Congress and the BJP, respectively — are against a general strike to counter a Supreme Court judgment that government workers had no “legal, fundamental or moral right to go on strike” following Tamil Nadu’s clampdown on its striking employees.

The two have opposed the decision of the central and state government employees’ associations to strike work on February 11, describing it as a “unilateral move”.

On the second day of the Citu’s national conference here, general secretary M.K. Pandhe told reporters his organisation would support the strike, but its objective was to get all the trade unions to “jointly decide on the strike action”.

“In a week’s time, we will try to hold a meeting of all the trade unions to arrive at a date for the all-India strike. But this being an important massive action to defend the right to strike, a decision on the date cannot be delayed any further,” Pandhe said.

There should be a strike by all the trade unions within February 15, he added, indicating that the Citu, with support from the CPI-affiliated Aituc, would join the all-India strike even if the Intuc and BMS backed out.

The general secretary said the Intuc and the BMS had in a joint convention in September opposed the court’s views on the right to strike, but was at a loss to understand why they were not ready for action now. For the BMS, it appeared to do more with “political factors”, he added.

Pandhe, who was addressing a joint press conference with national secretaries Tapan Sen and A.K. Padmanabhan, said the Citu is willing to discuss with the Centre measures to nullify the apex court’s judgment without forcing a constitutional amendment. “We are ready to talk to the government, but they have not called for a meeting of the trade unions so far,” he said.

Referring to Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s remarks at the recent Indian Labour Conference in New Delhi that he was not happy with the Supreme Court observations, Pandhe said his words had not been followed up by action.

It would suffice if the Centre “ratified” three key International Labour Organisation conventions concerning freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining to ensure workers and public employees the basic right to strike, he said.

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