Two-day nationwide strike could hit essential services

Some of the essential services linked to banking, transport, railways and electricity are likely to be hit in a two-day nationwide strike called by a joint forum of central unions from Monday.

Speaking to PTI, All Indian Trade Union Congress General Secretary Amarjeet Kaur said, “We expect the participation of over 20 million formal and informal workers with a massive mobilization of workers across the country during the March 28-29 strike to protest government policies.”

She said the strike is also expected to affect rural areas, where informal workers in agriculture and other sectors will join the protest.

The strike notices were given by labor unions in various sectors such as coal, steel, oil, telecommunications, post, income tax, copper, banking and insurance.

Railway and defense sector unions will conduct mass mobilization in support of the strike in several locations, the joint forum said.

Union demands include scrapping proposed changes to labor laws, privatization in all its forms and the national monetization pipeline. The increase in wage allocation under the MNREGA (Mahatma Gandhi Rural Employment Guarantee Act) and the regularization of contract workers are also part of their demands.

Road, transport and electricity service workers have also decided to join the strike despite the looming threat of the Essential Services Maintenance Act (ESMA) set to be imposed on Haryana and Chandigarh, the forum said. spouse in a press release.

Trade unions including INTUC, AITUC, HMS, CITU, AIUTUC, TUCC, SEWA, AICCTU, LPF and UTUC are part of the joint forum.

Meanwhile, the Department of Energy on Sunday advised all utilities and other agencies to be on high alert and ensure 24-hour electricity supplies and the stability of the national grid.

“The Center of Indian Trade Unions (CITU) has called for a nationwide strike with effect from 06:00 a.m. on 28 March to 06:00 a.m. on 30 March 2022,” said a notice issued by the Ministry of Energy.

The notice was sent to all states, central public sector companies, the central electricity authority, the national load dispatch center and regional load dispatch centers.

In the interest of electricity consumers, all electric utilities are advised to take the necessary measures to ensure the 24-hour operation of the electricity network and the availability of all generating stations, transmission lines and sub -stations, the ministry said, adding that all regional/state control room executives should be vigilant and on high alert.

The ministry also suggested measures to be taken to ensure safe and reliable network operations.

Shutdown activities scheduled for March 28 and 29 could be postponed to appropriate future dates where possible, he said and asked all officials involved to keep a close watch on their regional network/ control area.

Also, the workforce can be deployed to all critical substations/power plants 24/7 to handle any emergency situation, he said.

The power supply for people engaged in essential services such as hospitals, defense and railways must be ensured, he added and suggested the establishment of a 24-hour control room, 7 days a week, for the dissemination of information and the management of any type of eventuality.

Bank workers’ unions said they would support the strike.

Indian Bank Employees Association (AIBEA) General Secretary CH Venkatachalam said the union is calling on the government to stop the privatization of public sector banks and strengthen them. Bank workers are also demanding quick recovery of bad debts, higher deposit rates by banks, lower service charges for customers as well as the restoration of the old pension scheme for staff.

A number of public sector banks, including the country’s largest lender, SBI, said their services may be affected to some extent due to the strike.

The SBI said it had taken the necessary steps to ensure the normal operation of its branches and offices during the strike.

“It is likely that the work in our bank will be affected, to some extent, by the strike,” SBI said.

The Punjab National Bank (PNB), headquartered in New Delhi, said AIBEA, Bank Employees Federation of India (BEFI) and All India Bank Officers’ Association (AIBOA) served strike notices March 28 and 29.

“Although the bank has taken all measures to ensure the normal operation of its branches and offices, it is likely that work in our bank may be affected to a limited extent by the strike,” said PNB.

Bengaluru-based Canara Bank said it was taking all necessary measures to ensure the smooth running of branches and banking offices. However, the operation of the bank could be impacted, added Canara Bank.

Private lender RBL Bank said its banking unions are affiliated with AIBOA and AIBEA, and employees associated with those unions could participate in the strike.

“The bank will take all necessary measures for the proper functioning of the bank’s branches/offices on strike days. However, it is likely that some of our branches will also be affected by the strike,” RBL said.


Michelle J. Kelley