Today’s decision to defer the strike also follows a joint meeting of the union leaders with Jaitley, Home Minister Rajnath Singh and Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu on 30 June where it was decided that the issue of minimum wage will be referred to a committee for examination. The unions had then decided to meet again to take a final call on strike.
The unions are also demanding scrapping the report of the Bibek Debroy committee on mobilization of resources for railways submitted last year and withdrawing the notification that allowed FDI to flow into the rail sector. Unions allege the government has not looked at their demand for exemption from the NPS favorably despite letters written by former Railway Minister Mallikarjun Kharge and the current Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu to the finance minister.
Indian Railways worker unions on Wednesday deferred an indefinite nationwide strike that was to come into effect from Monday for four months.
The decision was taken at a meeting of the National Joint Council of Action (NJCA) here, after Finance Minister Arun Jaitley promised a fresh look at the demands.
“The Railway unions strike has been postponed for four months based on a decision taken by the NJCA in its meeting held on Wednesday,” said S N Malik, press secretary at National Federation of Indian Railwaymen (NFIR). “Finance Minister Jaitley has promised a committee will be formed to look at the specific justified demands of the unions. We have also been promised the government will make an announcement for this.”
NFIR and All India Railwaymen Federation claim to represent at least 90 per cent of the 1.3-million workforce. The decision to defer the strike comes days after the government warned the employees of severe consequences, including fines, imprisonment and sacking, if they join the July 11 strike.
The rail ministry had in a letter to the heads of zonal railway units last week warned of steps that could be taken immediately in view of the strike. Wednesday’s decision also comes on the backdrop of media reports on how one of the two unions could refuse to participate.
“We have asked for written confirmation from the Centre on the promise of a fresh look at three demands related to the Seventh Pay Commission anomalies, the new pension scheme and increasing the minimum wage to Rs 23,000 a month from the Rs 18,000 proposed by the pay panel for workers,” Malik said.
The unions had last month expanded the scope of their protest by including a key reform initiative of the rail ministry in their agenda — the award of Rs 40,000 crore contracts for new locomotive factories to foreign firms GE and Alstom. The unions were demanding improving the minimum wage to around Rs 26,000 and rejecting all the “retrograde” recommendations of the pay panel. Another major demand is to restore the Old Pension Scheme for railway workers in view of harsh working conditions.