New Delhi / Secunderabad: The deadline given by the Railway Union to the Ministry of Finance to take an action over their demands has ended in September. The leading parties have given an ultimatum to the government and are planning to hold a secret ballot with the Railway employees to decide whether to go for a strike or not.
The two leading unions of Indian Railways, All India Railway Federation (AIRF) and National Federation of Indian Railways (NFIR) are now heading to conduct a secret ballot over the charter of demands that the unions had presented to the government. Indian Railways currently employs 1.4 million. Most employees are affiliated to either of the two leading unions.
The secret ballot would be held over the charter of demands across 17 zones of the Indian Railways between 28 and 30 November 2013 for NFIR and on 20 and 21 December for AIRF. Leaders of the union have indicated that the strike could be a reality in February 2014. The two hold majority of the Zonal Railways seats.
“The government needs to realize that the strike of Indian Railways is not a joke and we are serious on our demands and not merely threatening”, said senior leader from Railways Union. Earlier in July the Railway Unions had presented a charter of demands to the Ministry of Finance and had put a three month deadline that ended in September.
Senior leaders from the leading Railway Unions expressed frustration over the lack of response from Finance Ministry.
The main demand of the Railway Union is to set up a committee for 7th pay commission. Other include changing the ‘anomalies’ arising out of the Sixth Pay Commission report, which requires revision of the pay scale for various categories.
Also, entitlement to pension for casual workers, working continuously for 20-25, considering this service as a qualifying service,
Further the Union has asked for setting up of New Pension Scheme guaranteeing pension beside dearness allowance, also merging the dearness allowance with the salary which would give railway workers increment, transport and other benefits.
As Business Standard had reported earlier, a day’s strike could cause Indian Railways loss of Rs 341.96 crore along with upsetting the movement of goods and larger public inconvenience.
However the already cash crunched Indian Railways would have a tough time managing its finances if wages are increased again. According to the latest CAG report staff cost including pension outgo constitutes about 62% of Indian Railways Ordinary Working Expenses. The ordinary working expenses stood at Rs 84,400 crore for 2012-2013.
The appropriation to pension fund was further increased by Rs 1500 crore in the budget of 2013-2014.
The last salary hike for Railway employees was under the 6th Pay commission in 2008 which hiked the pension and wages has put an additional burden of Rs 73,000 crore on Indian Railways over the period of five years.