“Millions of India’s workers walked off their jobs on Wednesday in a two-day nationwide strike called by trade unions to protest at the “anti-labour” policies of the embattled government.
Financial services and transport were hit by the strike called by 11 major workers’ groups to protest at a series of pro-market economic reforms announced by the government last year, as well as high inflation and rising fuel prices.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had appealed to unions to abandon the strike, the latest in a string of protests against liberalisation, warning it would cause a “loss to our economy” already poised for its slowest annual growth in a decade.
But talks following Singh’s appeal this week collapsed after the government refused to bow to union demands to roll back the reforms, which are aimed at jumpstarting the economy.
“In an immense outpouring of frustration with a government that continues to enact anti-labor measures despite repeated calls for reform, over 100 million workers across India walked off the job Thursday marking the second straight day of a general strike.
The demonstration was spurred by the announcement of the government’s push to privatize the retail, insurance and aviation sectors by opening them up to foreign investment and by the recent price hike on subsidized diesel—reforms that the organizing labor unions are calling “anti-poor.”
Workers are demanding the government set a legal minimum wage, provide better protections against poor working conditions for those in low paying or unskilled positions, and halt the outsourcing of jobs to foreign investment and private sector markets.