The secret ballot procedure adopted by the railway unions to get the consensus of members to decide whether to go on indefinite strike has absolute majority in favor. In the voting held here on December 20-21, 90 percent of the employees dropped their ballots papers in the red box, which denotes 'Yes' to strike. Those who weren't in favor of the strike dropped their ballots in the black box.
"At Udaipur railway station, 398 voted for strike out of the total 400 votes polled, while at Rana Pratap Nagar railway station, 284 votes were in favor of strike while merely three were against it. At Kamlighat station all 179 votes were in favour while at Mavli, 267 voted for strike and 18 were against it," informed NL Vijay, president of the north western railway employees union. Union leaders have indicated that the strike could be a reality in February 2014.
Earlier in July, railway unions All India Railwaymen Federation (AIRF) and National Federation of Indian Railwaymen (NFIR), had presented a charter of demands to the finance ministry and had given a three-month deadline that ended in September. The unions had announced to conduct secret ballot to get consensus from their members before taking a decision of indefinite strike. The secret ballot was held across 17 zones of the Indian Railways, between November 28 and 30 for NFIR and on December 20 and 21 for AIRF.
Among the 36-point charter of demands, the major one is to set up a committee for the Seventh Pay Commission. Others include changing the 'anomalies' arising out of the Sixth Pay Commission report, which requires revision of the pay scale for various categories. Also, entitlement to pension and other benefits for casual employees working continuously for 20-25 years, considering this service as a qualifying service. Further the union has asked for abolition of New Pension Scheme and statutory guarantee for new pension subscribers. Recruitment for vacant posts, rescheduling the duty period to seven hours for all cadres, implementation of recommendations of the career advancement committee for the gangmen constitute other demands.
Railway strike will bring the country to a standstill. Indian Railways currently employs 1.4 million people. A day's strike could cause the railways a loss of Rs 341.96 crore along with upsetting the movement of goods and larger public inconvenience.
However, the already cash-crunched railways would have a tough time managing its finances if wages are increased again.