The movement by state government employee unions demanding the release of dearness allowance on a par with their central government counterparts gained momentum on Wednesday with the joint forum of unions and the CPM-backed Coordination Committee calling a strike on March 10.
“A meeting was held between the joint forum that is carrying out an agitation in Esplanade for the past three weeks and the Coordination Committee on Tuesday night. It was decided that a strike will be observed on March 10 to press for our demand. We have given enough chances to the government to consider our demands,” said a leader of the joint forum.
“We are getting 32 per cent less DA compared to the central government employees. The state government is in no mood to bridge the gap.... We can’t accept this and that’s why we have called this strike,” said a land and land reforms department employee.
The joint forum had already observed a pen-down on February 20 and 21 while the Coordination Committee had observed a similar protest on February 21.
“Their success clearly hinted that all the employees want a stronger movement for the demand,” said a Coordination Committee leader.
The strike called on March 10 is significant for two reasons. First, this will be the first strike by the employee unions in Bengal to press for their demand. So far, employee unions in the state had only taken part in strikes called by the central trade unions.
“The last time such a strike was called by the state government employee unions against the government was in the 1970s. It will be interesting to see how the employee unions observe the strike this time,” said a senior bureaucrat.
Second, the strike has been called jointly by the joint forum and the Coordination Committee.
This is significant as the Coordination Committee earlier had reservations about sharing platforms with the joint forum, which included unions backed by the SUCI and the BJP.
“Now it is clear that the unions are coming close to press for their demand. This could be a headache for the ruling establishment as it has plans to carry out several development projects, particularly in rural areas, ahead of panchayat polls. Without the active participation of state government employees, it will be tough,” said a senior official.
Though the government is sympathetic towards its employees on the DA issue and has clearly spelt out its cash constraints as the only thing holding it back, it is anti-strike.
“The Trinamul Congress-led state government does not believe in the bandh and strike culture and all steps will be initiated to ensure that offices function normally. The government is set to issue a notice cancelling all kinds of leaves on that day,” said a source.