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Last Updated: Wednesday, 6 August, 2003, 16:10 GMT 17:10 UK
Analysis: India's strike ban
By Ramesh Gopalakrishnan
BBC Tamil section

A truck worker cooks during a truckers' strike in Ahmedabad, India in April 2003
A truck strike in April crippled India's delivery network
The ruling by India's highest court that government employees have no fundamental right to strike has come at a time when India is coming to terms with the effects of globalisation on its economy.

The Supreme Court ruled that such strikes hurt the economy, but trade unions feel that public sector employees will lose out as a result of the ruling, especially while key economic sectors are being privatised.

For decades, a career in the Indian Government was synonymous with social security.

And the right to strike was deemed inalienable.

Strikes in the public sector were commonplace, sometimes with workers enforcing a complete shutdown.

However, the Supreme Court's judgement could decisively alter that situation.

Fears of privatisation

As the Indian state attempts to cut down on expenditure and down-size its bureaucracy, government employees are struggling to retain their benefits.

The unions also worry that they will not be able to strike in protest at the government's controversial drive to privatise state companies which the government argues is part of a long-term strategy to bolster the economy.

The Supreme Court rejected the trade unions' argument that the right to strike was an instrument for collective bargaining

Legal experts point out that India has not ratified two of the eight core conventions of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) which guarantee freedom of association and the right to organise for collective bargaining.

The Indian Government, however, argues that constitutional guarantees are in place for workers' rights.

But, the trade unions point out that the court judgement in effect implies that the government could ban strikes in any sector which is deemed essential to the economy.

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25 Mar 03  |  Business

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