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Mixed response to two-day nationwide strike; bank employees biggest bunkers

Around 58% of the workers in banking bunked office against the average of 14% across sectors, shows official data

Somesh Jha  |  New Delhi 

Strike, hartal
Strike. Representative image

The two-day nationwide strike called by 10 central trade unions affected the banking industry the most, according to official estimates. However, other sectors saw weak participation from employees even as the unions claimed 200 million workers joined their strike call on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Around 58 per cent of the workers in banking bunked office, shows data collated by the Central Labour Commissioner (CLC) under the Ministry of Labour and Employment. Cheques worth Rs 20,000 crore could not be cleared on Tuesday, All India Bank Employees Association (AIBEA) General Secretary C H Venkatachalam said, adding cash transactions, remittances, bill discounting and foreign exchange transactions were also impacted.

On an average, 14.3 per cent did not attend office on Tuesday, compared to 13.5 per cent on Monday, CLC data shows. The CLC collects data on a dozen sectors from its 20 regional offices across the country, including both public and private sectors. It, however, doesn’t capture the trend from sectors such as automobile and also does not cover all private sector firms.

Telecom, oil and gas, mines and steel were some other sectors impacted by the strike. The strike was hit parts of West Bengal, Odisha and Bihar the hardest.

“Around 20 crore workers participated in the two-day nationwide strike. Six states – Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Odisha, Puducherry and Kerala – were completely shut and the impact of the strike was substantial in Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh, among others,” All India Trade Union Congress (AITUC) General Secretary Amarjeet Kaur said at a press conference on Tuesday.

She said the unions would meet soon to chalk out the future course of action “and will take the government heads on in the coming days.”

This was the third time that the central trade unions went on a strike during the present government’s tenure. The last two strikes were called in September 2015 and September 2016.

According to the unions, multinational companies such as Coca Cola, Toyota, Volvo, Samsonite, Crompton, saw a complete shut down in the National Capital Region.

The unions had called the strike to protest “anti-labour” policies of the government that they claim have caused job losses and an economic downturn. The workers' unions registered their protest against price rise, disinvestment of public sector units, job losses caused by demonetisation, Goods and Services Tax (GST), the economic downturn and labour law violations, among others.

"We got a good response in industrial areas in Punjab, Haryana and Rajasthan as well. In our protest march from Mandi House to Parliament in the capital, around 4,000 workers came out on the road to express their anguish...," Hind Mazdoor Sabha General Secretary Harbhajan Singh Sidhu said.

The unions said that the Group of Ministers led by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on labour issues has not called unions for any discussion since the September 2, 2015 strike, which left them with no other option but to go on another strike.

Many states invoked essential services maintenance laws, while the Centre had issued a stern warning to refrain from the stir on Tuesday.

(With inputs from Press Trust of India)

First Published: Wed, January 09 2019. 21:26 IST