Trade unions’ strike hits normalcy in Kerala | Latest News India - Hindustan Times
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Trade unions’ strike hits normalcy in Kerala

By, Thiruvananthapuram
Mar 29, 2022 12:33 AM IST

In Thiruvananthapuram, a magistrate’s vehicle was blocked and later the court summoned the Pettah station house officer (SHO) and ordered him to file cases against the protestors.

The 48-hour nationwide strike called by trade unions against “anti-labour” policies of the Union government crippled normal life in Kerala as forced shutdown and damages to private vehicles was witnessed in the state on Monday.

A boy assists a strike supporter erect flags at a town square on the first day of two day nationwide strike called by various labor unions in Kochi on Monday. (AP)
A boy assists a strike supporter erect flags at a town square on the first day of two day nationwide strike called by various labor unions in Kochi on Monday. (AP)

In Thiruvananthapuram, a magistrate’s vehicle was blocked and later the court summoned the Pettah station house officer (SHO) and ordered him to file cases against the protestors.

Similar incidents were reported from other parts of the state. A cancer patient was forced out of his auto-rickshaw in Pappanamcode locality here and advised to go by ambulance.

Stray incidences of violence and stone-pelting were also reported. In Kothamangalam, a panchayat secretary was attacked for doing his work. He received serious injuries he was rushed to the nearest hospital, police said.

There were also complaints against police, saying they remained mute spectators as strike supporters went on a rampage.

State minister V Sivankutty said the strike was peaceful and blamed the media for ballooning isolated incidents.

“Strike was peaceful and big success. We can’t pinpoint isolated incidents and blame,” said Sivankutty.

Almost all government offices and business establishments remained closed throughout the state. In the state secretariat, where 4,824 people are employed, only 32, including the chief secretary and some IAS officials, reported to work.

Railway service and air traffic remained unaffected. The state’s main IT parks also functioned normally.

Winding queues were visible outside railways stations and bus terminals and many volunteers came forward to help stranded people. The two-day strike commenced on Sunday midnight will continue till Tuesday midnight, trade union leaders said, adding it will be a total shutdown in the state for two days.

Subhead: HC bans state employees from participating

Kerala high court on Monday barred state employees from participating in the strike.

The court observed that the government employees will not come under the ambit of workers and their participation in the strike was against service rules. Hearing a petition moved by a lawyer and activist Chandrachoodan Nair, a division bench of Chief Justice S Mani Kumar and Justice Shaji P Chaly observed that government employees’ participation in the strike was against service conduct rules and they were not eligible for pay for the days they abstain from work.

Earlier, the left front government used to convert their absence as leaves to ensure their full pay. The court directed the government to invoke dies-non (no work, no pay) on these days.

The petitioner moved the court to nullify this “strange practice” and declare their participation in the strike unconstitutional. He contended that the government was encouraging its employees to strike work and later tweaks norms to ensure their pay packet.

The court agreed with his contention and said the government employees have no right to participate in such strikes and the government cannot ensure pay to them on absent days. It said their participation in the strike was illegal and unconstitutional.

“The rule 86 of the Kerala Government Servants’ Conduct makes it clear no government servant shall engage himself in any strike or any similar activities. Government servants should not engage themselves in any concerted or organised slowing down or attempt at slowing down government work or in any act, which tends to impede the reasonably efficient and speedy transaction of work. Concerted or organised refusal on the part of government servants to receive their pay will entail severe disciplinary action,” said the court in its order.

The court directed the state chief secretary VP Joy to advise the government to issue an order in this regard at the earliest. It also rejected the trade unions’ request to implead in the petition. “As the state government must enforce its rules and maintain law and order it is not necessary to adjudge as to whether the trade union/ service associations should be added as a party, respondents or not,” it ruled.

Stung by the HC order later in the night, chief secretary Joy issued an order making dies-non applicable to all government employees who abstain from work. The order also directed police to give protection to employees who are willing to work and warned strict action against those who destroy public properties. The government took this decision after it got legal advice that it will be prudent to go by the verdict of the court.

Governor Arif Mohammad Khan has requested government employees to heed the court order and avoid inconvenience to people.

But Left Democratic Front (LDF) convener A Vijayaraghavan said employees have every right to strike work. “We will not agree to such an order. Employees have the right to approach higher courts,” he said.

The Communist Party of India (Marxist)-backed government employees outfit Kerala NGO Union said it will continue its stir and move the Supreme Court.

Trade union bodies have asked the court to prevail upon the Union government, which they said was harassing and troubling the working force of the country rather than targeting them. “This observation is unfortunate. It should have been directed against the union government, not at poor workers,” said CPI trade union wing AITUC leader K P Rajendran.

State labour minister V Sivankutty said the government will react after going through the verdict. The law department has sought advice from the director-general of prosecutions and it is likely to move the Supreme Court soon.

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