New Delhi: More than 100 million workers across India took part in the one-day strike called by eight trade unions Tuesday, said G. Sanjeeva Reddy, president of the Congress-backed INTUC, who claimed that the protest had the backing of party chief Sonia Gandhi.
"The strike is 99 percent successful," Reddy, a Rajya Sabha MP and convener of the Coordination Committee of the Central Trade Unions, which called for the 24-hour strike, said from Hyderabad.
He said around 100 million (10 crore) workers and employees from sectors including banks, insurance, coal, power, telecom, defence, port and dock, road transport and petroleum and unorganised sectors such as construction had joined the strike.
Reddy claimed that he had the blessings of Congress president Sonia Gandhi to observe the strike. "Yes, we enjoy her support in upholding the workers` interest."
The strike, he said, was being held to "reassert" the bargaining power of the trade unions.
"Workers lost their bargaining power after the implementation of neo-liberal policies in the early 1990s. After that, programmes and policies of both the central government and state governments are framed to protect the interest of the big business. In the process, workers` interests are forgotten.
"We want to reassert our bargaining power," Reddy said when asked why the Indian National Trade Union Congress (INTUC) joined other trade unions, including the Left-affiliated Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU) and the All India Trade Union Congress (AITUC).
Most policies the unions oppose are of the central government of Manmohan Singh.
Reddy said government leaders, including Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, wanted to discuss the workers` demands.
He said that senior ministers in the central government had already contacted him to discuss the workers` issues.
He said the strike was not against the policies of the Manmohan Singh government alone. "It is against the policies of both the Central as well as state governments."
Eight major trade unions, including those of the Left and the ruling Congress, are holding the national strike to protest against price rise, violation of labour laws and privatisation.
The eight, besides INTUC, AITUC and CITU, are the All India United Trade Union Centre (AIUTUC), Trade Union Co-ordination Centre (TUCC), All India Central Council of Trade Unions (AICCTU), United Trade Union Congress (UTUC) and the Hind Mazdoor Sabha (HMS).
These are the workers` five-point charter of demands: contain the price rise of essential commodities, take proactive measures to link employment protection in recession hit sectors, strictly enforce all basic labour laws without any exception, announce Rs.50,000 crore for an unorganised workers` social security fund and stop disinvestment in central public sector enterprises.