News Article

Massive Strike in India Highlights Labor Unrest Created by Evolving Government Policies

March 2, 2012

Indian trade unions estimate that some 100 million people stopped work last Tuesday in major cities across the country during a strike called by the unions against the government.  According to the BEERG Global Labor Newsletter, eleven major trade unions called for the strike to protest the government’s policy of selling stakes in state-owned companies and the lack of social security for non-unionized workers.  It was also directed at rampant inflation, which has been above 9 percent for most of the last two years.  Gurudas Dasgupta, leader of the All India Trade Union Congress, said nearly 5,000 other smaller workers’ unions from different trades joined the strike.  The trade unions rejected an appeal last week by the government to call off their strike.  Labor Minister 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 Monday, in a last-minute appeal to the unions.  The unions went ahead with the strike nevertheless.  As explained by Asia Pacific Employee Relations Group (APERG) Executive Director Amy Lau: "This is kind of a unique approach called by a Joint Committee of Trade Unions leading action on a common cause that was not targeted at any particular establishments.  This has rarely happened and I see it as a gesture against the government for future labor reforms.  The call was successful because those who are represented by these unions had a mandate to respond positively so the outcome was expected.  However, it came down to local management and unions to negotiate and agree on a win-win solution to minimize loss of wages to the workmen and loss of productivity."