New Delhi: A secret ballot conducted by unions at India’s largest employer, the Indian Railways, has thrown up a fresh headache for the UPA government: 96% of over 8 lakh voters from railways employee unions across India have voted in favour of a strike if the Centre fails to meet their demands by March 2014. If the strike does take place, it would be the first such indefinite strike in 40 years after the 1974 strike led by George Fernandes as the All India Railwaymen’s Federation (AIRF) leader, following which emergency was imposed. The call for strike had been kicked off in June by AIRF, the largest railway employee union in India. In September, AIRF decided to seek the opinion of other railway employee unions. “We want a logical end to our demands. And, a unilateral ‘no’ will not be acceptable. Instead, we want them to give us reasons if they cannot meet a certain demand.
We will send our 36-point charter of demands to the Railway Ministry and Prime Minister’s Office by next week and are aiming for a resolution by March. If not, we will be forced to take action which would have huge implications,” said Shiva Gopal Mishra, AIRF general secretary.
Their charter of demands includes long-standing issues like filling up of over 1 lakh job vacancies, including doctors, nurses and paramedical staff, minimal outsourcing of perennial nature of jobs, scrapping the New Pension Scheme in favour of the old pension scheme, appointment of the 7th Pay Commission and so on. Railway employees want guaranteed pension benefits under the Old Pension Scheme to officials who joined after January 1, 2004, similar to what the home ministry did for all defence and paramilitary forces.
“We have spoken to other unions at the state and central level and have received good response regarding some of the changes we are pushing for,” said Mishra.