New Delhi: Central trade unions have called a nationwide general strike on January 8 and 9 against the government’s alleged anti-worker policies and unilateral labour reforms. According to reports, 20 crore workers of the state and central government are expected to join the nationwide strike which has been called by 10 trade unions.

“This is the largest number of workers from formal and informal sectors joining the strike against anti-people and anti-worker policies of the BJP-led central government,” Amarjeet Kaur, General Secretary of AITUC, told reporters here in a joint press conference of the 10 CTUs.

According to Tapan Sen, general secretary of CITU (Centre of Indian Trade Unions), public sector employees, unorganised sector workers, port and dock workers, and bank and insurance employees will take part in the nationwide protest against economic crisis, price rise and acute unemployment.

Sectors like telecom, health, education, coal, steel, electricity, banking, insurance and transport among others are likely to support the strike.

Farmers across the country under the aegis of the Left Peasant Wings will also join the two-day strike. All India Kisan Sabha and Bhumi Adhikar Andolan will observe ‘gramin hartal’ and ‘road roko’ on January 8 and 9.

In several cities like Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru and Kolkata, commuters may have a tough time finding cabs, buses and auto rickshaws as a result of the all-India strike.

Operators of Mumbai’s BEST buses, Bengaluru’s Bangalore Metropolitan Transport Corporation (BMTC) and Karnataka State Road Transport Corporation (KSRTC) buses have threatened to join the nationwide protest against “anti-worker” government policies.

However, in West Bengal, the Mamata Banerjee government has said no strike will be allowed in the state on January 8 and 9. Employees will not be allowed to take casual leave, said the state government.

All educational institutions including schools, colleges and universities in Odisha will remain closed on Tuesday in view of the two-day nationwide strike called by central trade unions.

The 10 CTUs going on strike include INTUC, AITUC, HMS, CITU, AIUTUC, TUCC, SEWA, AICCTU, LPF and UTUC. RSS affiliate Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh (BMS) will not participate.

Extending support to the CTU’s call for nationwide general strike, most state-run banks will remain closed for two days – January 8 and 9.

The All India Bank Employees Association ( AIBEA ) and Bank Employees Federation of India (BEFI) have given call to their members, who are employees and officers of various banks, to participate in the strike called by 10 major central trade unions.

The Allahabad Bank and Bank of Baroda – public sector banks – said that the strike is likely to affect the normal working at banks.

However, the State Bank of India (SBI), the country’s largest bank with 85,000 branches, is likely to remain operational on the two days, along with a few other nationalised banks.

“All the SBI branches will remain operational. Out of nine union constituents, only two have called the strike and rest are not supporting it this time,” United Forum of Bank Unions West Bengal Convener Siddhartha Khan told PTI.

Banking services were earlier affected twice in December 2018 when a similar strike was called. At least 10 lakh bank employees took part in the nationwide strikes on December 26.

In a joint statement, the CTUs also alleged that the government undermined tripartism and continued its “aggressive attack with arrogance on the lives and livelihood of the working people.”

They are also opposed to the proposed amendments in Trade Union Act, 1926 saying those are irrational and extremely damaging to the independent functioning of unions.

The unions claim that farming communities through their associations have also extended support to the strike. Student and teacher organisations of various universities have also declared support, the statement said.

The demands of the CTUs include urgent measures to contain price rise through universalisation of public distribution system and banning speculative trade in commodity market.

They have also demanded the government to take strict measures for employment generation, along with minimum wages of not less than Rs 18,000 per month with provisions of indexation.