India Braces for General Strike

India Braces for General Strike

Major trade unions in India will begin a 48-hour general strike at midnight as last-minute conciliatory efforts by the union government broke up late Monday.

Dockworkers, truckers, seafarers, shipyard workers, rail workers, airport workers, public sector employees and workers from other sections will join the nationwide industrial action to protest the government’s “labor policies.”

“Burgeoning inflation, divestment of profit-making public sector undertakings, non-implementation of labor laws, increase in deployment of contract labor on jobs of regular nature, inadequate minimum wages, absence of social security for millions of workers and above all, denial of basic human trade union rights, have compelled the workers to go on strike,” the Trade Union Coordination Committee said in a notice.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Monday urged union leaders to call off the planned stoppage, saying “such a strike would lead to avoidable loss to the country’s economy and inconvenience to the public through disruption of services.”

The two-day protest, which follows a 24-hour action by labor federations in February last year over the same issues, is likely to shut down operations at major seaports, including Jawaharlal Nehru (Nhava Sheva), Mumbai, Kolkata and Cochin.

The disruption comes as New Delhi frantically tries to accelerate its merchandise export trade, which fell nearly 5 percent year-over-year to $239.6 bilion in the first 10 months of fiscal 2012-13. The government has set an export target of $360 billion for the full fiscal year, which ends March 31, 2013.