WION New Delhi, India
Sep 01, 2016, 12.04 PM
More than 10 major central trade union organisations of India have called for a general strike on September 2 (Friday).
They can count on approximately 150 million workers who are expected to join the strike on the basis of a 12-point requests list.
The unions are protesting against the economic policies of India's ruling National Democratic Alliance (NDA), the governing coalition accused of being heavily pro-corporate.
It will be a total standstill for a day for many sectors — banks, power, textile, ports and docks, automobile, steel oil and defence.
After being elected, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been implementing a series of economic reforms aimed at easing labour laws and business opportunities in order to attract investments.
The Indian government aims to raise more than $8 billion through privatisation and the unions strongly oppose this. They are demanding that disinvestment in central and state enterprises be stopped, implicitly referring to the State-owned mining company Coal India that has recently been allowed to transfer coal blocks to private industries.
Minimum wage plays a central role in the unions' claims. The request is to rise it to 18,000 Indian rupees per month – roughly $270 – for every worker.
The Right-wing trade union Bhartiya Mazdoor Sangh (BMS) is the only major union which will not officially take part in the strike. The BMS is linked with the Right-wing organisation, Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), ideological root of India's ruling Bharatiya Janata Party. Indian labour minister Bandaru Dattatreya, for instance, began his career within the organisation.
Indian government has formally asked the unions to reconsider their strike, but the unions turned down the call saying that none of their request has been matched by the government.
In an attempt to avoid the standstill, Indian finance Minister Arun Jatley announced a hike in minimum wages for unskilled workers earlier this week. They will now earn 350 Indian rupees a day, instead of 246, it means $5.22 instead of $3.67.
Unions criticise the allowance to foreign direct investments in sectors like the railways, insurance and defence, believing that it could jeopardise national salary negotiations. They have also requested the Indian government to fully ratify the International Labour Organisation (ILO) convention.