The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Country to stop work for a day

New Delhi, May 20: Around 40 million workers of all major trade unions, barring the RSS-affiliated Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh and the Congress-controlled Intuc, will go on a day’s nationwide strike tomorrow protesting the Centre’s “anti-worker” economic policies.

Defence minister George Fernandes’ Hind Mazdoor Kisan Panchayat, led by his brother Michael, and the unions of 39 ordnance factories and some defence employees, too, will support the strike, Citu general secretary M.K. Pandhe said.

Mass organisations of the Left parties, comprising students, women, youths and farmers, too would join in, Pandhe said at a press conference here today. Also joining in would be port and dock workers.

According to the Citu leader, the BMS and the Intuc, though not part of the strike, are also opposed to the Centre’s “anti-worker” policies.

Criticising the Centre’s “callous attitude”, Pandhe said labour minister Sahib Singh Verma called the participating unions to a meeting on May 19, though they had submitted the notice to the Centre on March 12.

The meeting proved futile as the trade unions failed to reach an agreement with Verma on their demands, including early halt to privatisation of profit-making undertakings, reversal of proposed labour policies, restoration of 12 per cent provident fund interest rate, immediate enactment of comprehensive legislation for agricultural workers and amendment of the Bonus Act.

Widening social security schemes for all, including workers in the unorganised sector, and restoring quantitative restrictions on imports were the other demands.

With Citu president E. Balanandan and secretary W.R. Varadarajan by his side, Pandhe said “tomorrow’s strike will be the biggest manifestation of the indignation of the masses of the country against the anti-national, anti-people policies of the BJP-led NDA government”.

Left unions accused the Intuc and the BMS of backtracking despite deciding on the strike after a thorough discussion among all trade unions. Intuc leaders, however, said they were never consulted.

The participating central trade unions include the Centre of Indian Trade Unions (Citu), the All India Trade Union Congress (Aituc), the Hind Mazdoor Sabha and the United Trade Union Congress.

Unions of major banks, including the Reserve Bank Employees’ Association, the All India Bank Employees’ Association and the All India Bank Officers’ Confederation, insurance workers and confederations of Central and state government employees will also participate.

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