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Saturday, September 3, 2016

Trade unions strike: Normal life hit in Kerala, mixed response in other States

An all India strike called by major trade unions got under way on Friday. It was total in Kerala and drew mixed response in other States. It received lukewarm response from workers, top Labour Ministry officials in Delhi said.

As many as 10 central trade unions are on a one-day nationwide strike, protesting against “anti-worker” changes in labour laws and the Centre’s “indifference” to their demands for better wages.

“The strike is on. We are getting a good response. More information will pour in after sometime. Around 90 per cent workers at BHEL’s plant in Tiruchirapalli have not reported to work in the morning shift,” Centre for Indian Trade Unions (CITU) General Secretary Tapan Kumar Sen told PTI.

He further said, “Vizag Steel Plant is 100 per cent closed. At some places there would be instances of ‘rail roko’ This is going to be a successful strike as more than 15 crore workers will come on to the streets to protest.”

Last year, these 10 trade unions had called a nationwide strike and around 15 crore workers participated in the agitation.

Shutdown in Kerala

The strike hit normal life in Left-ruled Kerala with public transport vehicles staying off the roads and shops and business establishments downing shutters.

Autorickshaws, taxies, Kerala State Road Transport Corporation (KSRTC) and private buses are not plying on roads across the state with the workers of various unions taking part in the strike.

Major roads wore a deserted look in the state capital where hundreds of employees of ISRO units, including Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre (VSSC), could not reach their offices as the strike supporters laid a siege of an ISRO bus bay here.

Train passengers had a tough time as they had to walk to their homes after alighting at the railway station here.

However, police helped patients coming to the Regional Cancer centre here by arranging transport.

All major unions, barring RSS—associated BMS (Bhartiya Mazdoor Sangh), have joined the strike, terming as “completely inadequate” the Central government’s assurances to look into their demands and the recent announcements for two—year bonus and hike in minimum wage.

This is the first major strike in Kerala after the CPI(M) led LDF government came to power in May this year.

Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan has courted controversy after expressing support to the strike on Facebook with BJP hitting out against him.

VSSC officials said employees of Indian Space Research Organisation’s units here were stranded at the bus bay at Pattom here.

“Not a single bus has left the Pattom station since 7 AM this morning. We are not sure when the convoys will ply,” a VSSC official said.

In the past 15—20 years, we were never affected due to strikes as employees used to get transport arrangements, the official said.

Some vehicles of Technopark employees were also blocked.

In the Apollo Tyres Perambra unit, BMS workers came for work for the 6 am shift and striking workers tried to prevent them.

However, police intervened and allowed them to enter the unit. Employees of the Fertilisers and Chemicals Travancore (FACT) were also prevented at Kochi, police said.

Mumbai transport unaffected, rural Maha partially hit

It was business as usual for public transport in Mumbai despite one—day nationwide strike call given by central trade unions, while it evoked a mixed response in rural Maharashtra.

The suburban trains, autorickshaws, taxis and city buses continued to operate normally, without affecting the daily schedule of lakhs of commuters in Mumbai and suburbs.

A CPM state unit leader told PTI that there were instances of ‘rasta roko’ (block roads) at various places in rural Maharashtra.

“Our activists staged ‘rasta roko’ agitation in Thane and Nashik districts,” CPM leader Ashok Dhawle said.

He claimed that there was an ‘overwhelming’ response to the stir in the industrial belts of Maharashtra.

Several government employees also stayed away from work, he said.

All India Banks Employees Association general secretary Vishwas Utagi said entire financial sector will get paralysed today with all banks, except SBI, being on strike. The LIC, Nabard, GIC among others are also participating in the strike, he added.


Sen further said, “Gurgaon industrial area is completely closed and the police have arrested about 12 people in Manesar area. All this information indicates that the strike will be bigger this time.”

Normal life unaffected in TN

The nation-wide strike called by central trade unions today did not have much impact on normal life in Tamil Nadu as transport services and other businesses began the day’s functioning normally.

Bus and train services were operated as usual while shops and business establishments remained open. Educational institutions are functioning normally.

The ruling AIADMK’s labour wing is not participating in the strike called by ten central unions protesting “anti-worker” changes in labour laws and the Centre’s “indifference” to their demands for better wages.

The striking union members staged demonstrations at various places raising slogans in support of their demands.

A Madurai report said the strike did not affect normalcy in most parts of southern districts of the state.

However, inter-state buses to Kerala were stopped at the border towns of Nagercoil and Theni.

Central government government offices wore a deserted look with the employees joining the strike while section of state government employees, especially in the revenue department, are also participating in the strike, the report said.

Shops in most places were open and autorickshaws were seen plying as usual.

Police have been deployed for providing security to PSUs and government offices to prevent any untoward incident.

Mixed response in Karnataka

The one-day nationwide strike evoked a mixed response in Karnataka.

While the state—run transport buses remained off the roads causing inconvenience to office-goers and those travelling to distant places, shops, establishments, markets and hotels functioned normally.

Though some auto and cab unions had announced their support for the bandh, their movement was by and large normal in Bengaluru. Metro services are also functioning normally.

Keeping safety of students in mind, authorities in various districts have declared holiday for school and college goers.

Police have made elaborate security arrangements in the state to avoid any untoward incident. In Bengaluru, police personnel have been deployed across the city.

Minimal impact in Kolkata

The ‘Bharat Bandh’ called by the various trade unions, had low impact in Kolkata. The city remained mostly unaffected.

While elaborate security arrangements were made in the city, public transport was visible on city roads. However, fewer people came out on the streets. Traffic flow remained smooth. Police presence was seen at every important intersection.

Although public sector banks remained closed; customers could access ATMs. Major markets remained open too.

Telangana: Banking operations hit

Banking operations came to standstill in Telangana as over 15,000 employees of various banks participated in the general strike called by trade unions to protest government’s “anti—labour policies“.

The All India Bank Employees Association (AIBEAP) Joint Secretary BS Rambabu said demonstrations will be held in all the district headquarters along with other trade unions.

“Though branches will be open, there is no business taking place in PSU banks. Clearing will also be impacted. However, there will not be any problem with regard to ATMs’ functioning,” Rambabu told PTI.

Most of the buses run by Telangana State Road Transport Organisation are kept off the roads, a senior official said.

As many as two lakh state government employees (gazetted, non—gazetted and class 4 employees) are supporting the strike, Telangana Gazetted officers Association General Secretary A Satyanarayana said.

Public transport, banking services hit in Haryana, Punjab

Services including banking and public transport were hit in Haryana, Punjab and UT Chandigarh with employees of various government departments joining the strike.

Employees of departments like roadways, electricity, health, corporations held demonstrations at various places in Punjab, Haryana and Chandigarh. At some places, employees claimed the district administration “forcefully” asked roadways employees to ply buses.

The government departments had already warned protesting employees to enforce ‘no work no pay’ policy and had set up control rooms to lodge complaint.

At prestigious health institution Post Graduate Institute of Medical Education and Research (PGIMER), various planned surgeries were today postponed in the wake of around 2,000 nurses joining the nationwide strike call given by All India Government Nurses Federation.

Public transport services were hit in Punjab and Haryana with roadways employees participating in the strike call, causing inconvenience to passengers.

“There is a complete strike in Haryana as roadways buses are not plying, barring few ones at some places,” Haryana Roadways Workers Union, General Secretary, Dharamveer Hooda said.

“Employees are protesting at all the 24 depots in the state,” he said adding that the state roadways had fleet of 4,200 buses.

Mixed response in Puducherry

The nation-wide strike called by central trade unions evoked a mixed response in this Union Territory today.

Private buses, autos and other passenger vehicles were off the roads while state—run buses were operated as usual. Shops and establishments downed their shutters. Cinema houses suspended the shows for the day.

However, government departments registered normal attendance, official sources said.

Police sources said around 1,200 workers of different trade unions were taken into custody when they blocked roads at several places.

Police pickets have been posted at all vulnerable points.

Government services

All major unions, excluding the RSS-associated BMS (Bhartiya Mazdoor Sangh), have joined the strike call, terming the government’s assurances to look into their demands and the recent announcements for two-year bonus and hike in minimum wage as “completely inadequate”.

On its part, the government has asked all ministries to ensure that public utilities and essential services are not affected. Secretaries of all departments have been asked to take effective measures for the smooth running of various services coming under their respective ministries.

Yesterday, speaking to reporters in Mumbai, Labour Minister Bandaru Dattatreya blamed the previous UPA regime for the issues faced by the workers and said the present government “doesn’t want a confrontation with labour unions” and rather needs their cooperation and support.

He had conceded that the banking and insurance sectors are likely to be impacted more due to the strike today, while adding that of the 12 demands of the trade unions, eight are related to the labour department and seven of them have been agreed to.
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