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News :: Labor
40 million strike--against a ban on strikes!
17 Mar 2004
Modified: 12:18:30 AM
One of the biggest strikes in world history took place 3 weeks ago in India, but the U.S. media chose to ignore it! (I just found out about it today). Briefly, India's supreme court had ruled that it was illegal for government workers to strike, so in order to protest the ruling and pressure the government: the workers--went on strike!

24 Feb 2004 11:03

Millions of workers strike for right to strike

NEW DELHI (Reuters) - Tens of millions of workers went on strike on Tuesday in protest at a Supreme Court ban on strikes, shutting down government offices, schools and banks and hitting public transport.

Extra police were on the streets of major cities, but the impact of the one-day action varied across the country -- hitting Calcutta and Bombay worst and barely affecting the capital, New Delhi.

"The response has been unprecedented. I don't remember when such a large strike took place in the past," said trade union council secretary Dev Roy. "Our estimate is that between 40 to 50 million workers are on strike."

Economists say the impact of the strike would be limited and ports and airports were largely unaffected, although some trains were cancelled. The national strike involves mainly government and financial sector employees.

In the financial capital, Bombay, volumes were hit in the federal bond and the foreign exchange markets, with dealers from state banks, the dominant players, absent from their desks.

"The government banks should be out of the market for most of the day," said a treasury official at a leading state bank.

"Some traders may be in, but back offices will definitely not be functioning."

Daily foreign exchange turnover is estimated at $4 billion -- almost 60 percent coming from state banks.

"There are very little volumes so far and I expect even that to die down after a while," said a dealer with a foreign bank.

Trading in the government bond market was also thin with traders estimating total volumes about a third of the daily average volume of 40-45 billion rupees.

Hundreds of postal workers rallied outside Bombay's main post office and about 300 other workers held a separate protest.

"Not a single letter will be delivered in Bombay today," said Mangesh Parab, an official with the main postal union.

Groups of income tax workers also blocked cars and fellow clerks from entering office compounds.

In Calcutta, capital of communist West Bengal state, streets were largely empty, some taken over by children playing cricket. Across the state, almost all shops, business and schools closed.

"We know the strike will be totally successful in West Bengal as the right to strike by government employees is a fundamental right," said Sukomal Sen, secretary of the All India State Government Employees Federation, which has eight million members across India.

Calcutta police said there were no cases of serious trouble.

"As the branch manager, I must set an example and get to work and, therefore, I am walking," said Anjan Ghosh, who works for a financial services company and lives five kilometres from his office.

"These politicians and trade union leaders should realise that... strikes send a negative image about a state and hurts development."

Government workers often strike in India, the world's second-most populous country, crippling services and pinching tax revenues. But in August last year, the Supreme Court said government workers had no right to strike because it inconvenienced citizens and cost the state money.


Posted on Tue, Feb. 24, 2004

Indian Workers Protest Strike Ban

Associated Press

NEW DELHI - Millions of Indian workers walked off the job Tuesday to protest a Supreme Court decision banning strikes by government employees.

Air, train and bus services were disrupted in Calcutta, and all financial institutions, including insurance companies, were closed in Bombay. State-run banks in New Delhi were shut down, and government-run institutions in Bangalore, India's information technology hub, were also affected.

"We have a right to strike," shouted about 1,500 bank workers as they marched in Bombay, waving red banners associated with communist-led unions.

Tapan Sen, leader of the Center of Indian Trade Unions, estimated about 40 million workers took part and said many were from the unorganized sector.

India's highest court ruled in August that government employees cannot strike and those who do can be fired. Walkouts by state workers inconvenience citizens and hurt the economy, the Supreme Court said, and disputes should be resolved in the courts.

The court decision followed moves by the southern state of Tamil Nadu to crush a July walkout by 1.2 million government workers over the withdrawal of pensions and other benefits.

Some 200,000 state workers were dismissed and more than 5,000 charged with violence and destruction of public property. Last month, the state took back the fired workers.

"The right to strike is a fundamental right," said Hashubhai Dave, president of Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh, or the Indian Workers' Union.

Tuesday's strike was necessary because the government failed to listen to concerns over the Supreme Court's decision, said Shantha Raju, a leader of the All India Coordination Committee of Unions in the Finance Sector.

"We were left with no choice because the government didn't give us a sympathetic hearing."

Union leaders were hoping that Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee's government would challenge the court's ruling, said Raju.

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