The national trade unions of railwaymen will decide on February 17 whether or not to go ahead with the proposed indefinite general strike to press for implementation of various long-standing demands.
Though railwaymen across the country had overwhelmingly voted in favour of a direct agitation during the ‘strike ballot’ held nationwide last month, the crucial decision on launching a general strike that could cripple railway operations is due to be taken at the meeting scheduled at Kota, Rajasthan, said N. Kanniah, general secretary of the Southern Railway Mazdoor Union (SRMU), which is affiliated to the All India Railwaymen’s Federation (AIRF).
The AIRF and the National Federation of Indian Railwaymen are the two parent trade unions representing an estimated 1.3 million railwaymen. The charter of demands include scrapping of the new pension scheme, filling up of vacancies, better working conditions for loco running staff and constitution of the Seventh Pay Commission.
Though the Railway Board had offered to negotiate on Railway-specific demands at meetings held over January 16 and 17 in Delhi, the AIRF leadership has taken the view that some of the key demands such as merger of DA with basic pay and guaranteed pension scheme in place of new pension scheme, could only be resolved by Government of India, Mr. Kanniah said. The union leadership feels that the Railway Ministry needs to facilitate negotiations with the Centre in order to avert the strike, he said.
It may be recalled that during the strike ballot, over 96 per cent of railwaymen in the country voted in favour of an indefinite general strike.
In the six divisions across Southern Railway, 86.8 per cent of railwaymen endorsed the strike plan.