Concerns reminiscent of the 1974 strike hover over the railway system as its employees are presently engaged in a pivotal voting process regarding the contentious issue of the old pension scheme (OPS). Prompted by the All India Railwaymen's Federation, railway employees across divisions nationwide have actively participated in a two-day secret ballot that was held on November 20 and 21. The results are anticipated by week's end.
The destiny of the proposed indefinite strike for OPS restoration hinges on the outcome of this secret ballot. Administered at the divisional level, this voting procedure aims to ascertain the collective sentiment of the workforce. The secret ballot's result will delineate the future action plan of the employees concerning the strike.
Venu Nair, the General Secretary of the National Railway Mazdoor Union, elucidated that the decision to proceed with an all-India strike will be contingent on the percentage of votes garnered. The ballot's validity requires a 75 per cent participation rate among members, while a strike can be called if two-thirds of the votes favor it. A leader from the Central Railway union emphasized, “The restoration of OPS is a demand shared by numerous central government employees. We are confident of garnering their backing for an indefinite strike.”
Emphasizing the intention to legally stage a strike involving every worker, the union leader further articulated, “Post-ballot, we will convene in Delhi to determine the date for issuing the strike notice to the Centre. Discussions among the unions revolve around commencing the strike in February, before the announcement of the 2024 general elections.” Notably, approximately 50% of the Centre's total workforce falls under the new pension scheme (NPS), and the unions anticipate substantial support for the strike, particularly from younger workers, the leader added. Another union representative affirmed, “We will settle for nothing short of OPS restoration.” This time, worker enthusiasm is significantly higher, with around seven lakh young workers under the NPS displaying reluctance to compromise, such as accepting increased pension amounts under the current NPS system.