Despite the best attempts of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) to convince labour unions that its reform agenda wouldn’t hurt workers, and committing to a national minimum wage, central trade unions (CTUs), barring the RSS-affiliated Bhartiya Mazdoor Sangh (BMS), on Friday decided to go ahead with their nation-wide strike on September 2. The government held a fresh round of talks on Friday with union leaders following high-level meetings on both Wednesday and Thursday, when it outlined a policy by which skilled workers in developed states would earn a minimum of R20,000 per month. The BMS — the second largest union — asked the other unions to reconsider their decision and suggested giving the government six months’ time to make good its promises. However, most unions, including the INTUC and CITU remained adamant, refusing to call off the strike and saying the government hadn’t addressed their 12-point charter of demands adequately. BMS general secretary Brajesh Upadhyay, who had struck a conciliatory tone on Thursday, made an effort to convince other labour leaders, saying it would not be right to “go for the strike just for the heck of it”.
Apart from assuring labour leaders that workers would be paid a minimum wage, the government has also said social security benefit schemes would be extended to construction and scheme workers. It has agreed to raise the salary threshold for mandatory bonus for workers from R10,000 a month at present to R21,000, and also decided to ensure sector-specific minimum wages for contract workers. INTUC president G Sanjeeva Reddy, however, said the government had failed to create an environment which merited a deferment of the strike.“There is not a single concrete proposal on the part of the government so we stand by our strike,” he said.
Teamlease Services’ co-founder and senior vice president Rituparna Chakraborty said the strike would cause a “huge setback” to the “Make in India” initiative. “This would cause a loss of crores of rupees for industries and workers. I don’t know in whose interest the strike has been called,” she said.