Wed, Feb 29, 2012 - Page 5 News List

Indian trade unions begin nationwide strike over inflation

AP, Kolkata, India

Shops and banks were closed, factories shuttered and traffic sparse in major cities across India during an industrial strike yesterday called by trade unions against the government.

Passengers were stranded at airports and railway stations in Kolkata, the capital of India’s West Bengal State, as taxis and rickshaws were off the roads.

Eleven major trade unions called for the strike to protest against rampant inflation.

Gurudas Dasgupta, leader of the All India Trade Union Congress, said nearly 5,000 other smaller workers’ unions from different trades joined the strike.

LACK OF CARE

The trade unions are also protesting the government’s policy of selling stakes in state-owned companies and the lack of social security for non-unionized workers.

In New Delhi and Mumbai the effect of the strike was minimal. Banks and insurance offices were closed, but buses and taxis plied the streets and shops were open for business.

The trade unions rejected an appeal last week by the government to call off their strike. Indian Minister of Labor Mallikarjun Kharge had offered to discuss the long-standing demands of the workers with union representatives.

“We need the cooperation of unions in solving workers’ problems. There is no point in observing a countrywide strike, as it causes a huge loss to the exchequer,” Kharge said on Monday, in a last-minute appeal to the unions.

IGNORED

Ignoring the government’s plea, the unions went ahead with their plans to stop work for the day.

They are demanding an amendment of minimum-wage laws to keep pace with inflation, pensions for all workers and the registration of trade unions in different industries.

India’s inflation rate has been above 9 percent for most of the last two years, although it had come down to 7.5 percent in December.

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