Lakhs of workers will be part of an all-India general strike called by central trade unions on Wednesday, January 8. The strike will see participants from across the country, including government employees, bank employees, teachers and workers from various sectors such as steel and railways.
Workers will stay away from work to protest against what they allege are anti-labour policies of the Narendra Modi government and to press for their demands.
Here are five things you should know:
1. Who will be participating in the strike
From industrial trade unions to women’s and farmers’ collectives, many unions are set to be part of the strike. Various Left parties and Central trade unions have extended their support to the strike.
Unions that will be participating are the All India United Trade Union Centre (AIUTUC), Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU), All India Trade Union Congress (AITUC), Hind Mazdoor Sabha (HMS), Self-Employed Women's Association (SEWA), All India Central Council of Trade Unions (AICCTU), Labour Progressive Federation (LPF), United Trade Union Congress (UTUC), Indian National Trade Union Congress (INTUC) and Trade Union Coordination Centre (TUCC). Some estimates say that more than 20 crore workers will be part of the strike.
2. Drop labour reforms, the main demand
According to Maitreyi Krishnan, a lawyer working with one of the unions, the main demand is that the government drop the proposed labour reforms. She says that there are objections to the amendments in the labour law, and that these should be scrapped.
A bill introduced in the Lok Sabha proposes to merge 44 labour laws into four codes — wages, industrial relations, social security and safe working conditions.
In November 2018, the labour code on industrial relations was approved by the Union Cabinet, which seeks to derecognise labour unions, and make firing employees easier for employers, among other amendments. The labour code on social security does not include 93% of the workforce in the unorganised sector.
Additionally, under the Code, a strike has been defined as "mass casual leave" and that a union will be recognised only if it has the support of more than 75% of the workers.
3. Other demands
Some of the other demands put forward the unions are a raise in the minimum wage to Rs 21,000-Rs 24,000 per month; stopping the privatisation of public sector undertakings; and repealing the controversial Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), National Register of Citizens (NRC) and National Population Register (NPR).
4. Bank unions to join strike
Bank employees — central, cooperative, regional rural and the Life Insurance Corporation of India — belonging to bank unions have also decided to join the strike. According to Indian Banks' Association (IBA), six bank unions will go on strike, reports Financial Express. According to Live Mint, banking services, especially ATMs and branch services, are likely to be affected. However, online transactions will not be affected. The bank workers are specifically striking for a raise in their wages and against bank mergers and bank reforms.
5. Why the strike
The decision to go on strike is the result of failed talks between the government and union leaders. On Thursday, Union Labour Minister Santosh Gangwar had held a meeting with 10 trade unions, where he assured the trade union leaders that the reforms are for the welfare of the labour force. However, the Telegraph reported that the union leaders said none of their concerns that were brought up was discussed at the meeting, and hence, they are going ahead with the strike.