Should Jagan follow KCR strategy on employees' strike?

The ongoing agitation by the employees of the Andhra Pradesh state government on pay revision has become a big irritant to the Jagan Mohan Reddy government amidst severe financial crisis.

The chief minister has been maintaining a lot of restraint in dealing with the employees, who have threatened to go on indefinite strike with effect from the midnight of February 6, while waging a legal battle.

Jagan has constituted a five-men committee to negotiate with the agitating employees.

The committee on Tuesday called the members of the steering committee of employees’ union for the second consecutive day on Tuesday, but they refused to hold any consultations with the government.

They submitted a letter to the committee stating that there would be no talks till the GOs on the pay revision are revoked, disclosure of the original PRC report and payment of salaries to the employees as per the old format.

Now, Jagan has to take a crucial decision on how to deal with the strike.

His government has already launched a massive campaign through social media and also openly in the form of pamphlets to explain to the people on how the new PRC is causing heavy burden on the exchequer and how unjust the demands of the employees are.

There is a suggestion from some quarters that Jagan should act tough with the employees.

He has to follow the strategy adopted by his Telangana counterpart K Chandrasekhar Rao in dealing with the strike of the RTC employees in October 2019.

On the lines of the present AP government employees, the Telangana RTC workers, too, went on an indefinite strike, despite repeated appeals by the chief minister and his ministers. The RTC services came to a grinding halt for days.

Enraged at this, KCR sacked all the 50,000-odd RTC employees with one stroke.

He engaged temporary drivers and conductors to run limited number of services for the convenience of the people. The RTC unions went to the high court, but the latter did not come to their rescue.

In the meantime, KCR engineered a split in the RTC employees’ union leaders and alienated those like Ashwathama Reddy, who made aggressive comments against the TRS government and the chief minister. 

Gradually, the patience of the workers has disappeared and they sent messages to the government stating that they were ready for the talks.

KCR suddenly announced that all the employees would be allowed to rejoin their duties and that the government would consider their genuine demands.

Next day, he called the employees to Pragathi Bhavan, hosted lunch for them, spoke to them individually and announced that they would get their full salary for the strike period. The RTC employees were very happy, though they did not get anything from the 50-day strike.

“Jagan, too, should follow the same model. Though he might not sack lakhs of employees like KCR did with 50,000 RTC employees, but he should suspend the employee union leaders at all levels,” an analyst said.

The chief minister might be facing difficult to run the administration, but he can engage contract employees in the most crucial departments to manage the show for a few days.

“Since it is a policy decision, the high court, too, cannot do much with the strike. In the meantime, Jagan can make efforts to water down the strike, so that the employees would definitely come down on their knees at least after a month,” the analyst added.

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