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Friday, December 20, 2013

Railwaymen to hold 'secret ballot' to decide on strike

NEW DELHI: The railways could be heading towards the first nation-wide indefinite strike in 39 years which would affect the lives of millions. 

The railways' largest employees' union -- the All India Railwaymen's Federation (AIRF) -- has given a call to more than 10 lakh workers associated with it to go for a 'strike ballot' on Friday and Saturday, starting a process that could bring the national transporter to a halt by the end of this month. 

In the secret ballot, all employees would vote for or against the strike call and the mandate to agitate or otherwise would be announced on Monday. 

The employees are pressing for a charter of demands that include guaranteed pension scheme and quota for the wards of employees in railway recruitment, flexible timings for women and ministerial staff, and exempting women railway employees from night shifts in the open line. 

AIRF general secretary Shiva Gopal Mishra told TOI that railway workers were frustrated with the government, which has been insensitive to their demands and had gone back on several promises. 

"Railway ministry as well as government of India is quite indifferent and have not resolved our long-pending demands, we have no other alternative except to resort to strike ballot," Mishra said. 

"The result of strike ballot will be available on Monday and based on that AIRF will chalk out further strategy," he added. 

More than 1,000 voting centres have been established where employees can cast their votes. Ballot papers have been printed in different languages. 

Mishra said the general mood was to go for indefinite strike as most of the long-pending demands were ignored by the railways. 

The last railway strike was led by George Fernandes as AIRF leader in 1974, following which the government declared a state of emergency. AIRF is in talks with other unions to take them on-board for the general strike.

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