After their pressure tactics failed to move the government, the trade unions seem to be coming in terms with paths of negotiation. This, after they rejected earlier peace offers of the government in their exuberance of going on strikes.
Turning the table on themselves over offers to sit and talk, the central trade unions—including Congress-affiliated INTUC — have written a letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh appealing to the government to begin negotiations on their 10-point demands that include strict implementation of labour law and higher minimum wages.
The climb-down comes on the heels of their two-day general strike in February. Although several local unions joined hands for the first-ever two-day-long strike, it failed to make the desired impact.
AITUC chief Gurudas Dasgupta, however, refused to see it as meltdown: “We are exploring all options before deciding on next course of action.”
Before their last two strikes, the PM had appealed to trade union leaders not to do so and instead, offered to sit for talks. He had also formed a committee headed by defence minister AK Antony to negotiate with the trade unions.
Top sources said, before writing the letter, the union leaders spoke to Antony to see if he calls another meeting. He told them that he was asked to call only one meeting before the general strike.
Agriculture minister Sharad Pawar—another member of the Antony panel— too advised the trade unions to write to PM. On March 29, a meeting of the TUs decided to urge the PM to call a meeting for a “meaningful dialogue”.