31/08/2016 8:37 AM IST | Updated 31/08/2016 11:27 AM IST

Rejecting Govt's Wage Hike, More Than 10 Lakh Workers Will Strike To Protest Modi's Labour Reforms

The strike continues on Sept 2

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Trade unions have rejected the government's offer to hike minimum wage to ₹350 per day, calling the increase "completely inadequate" and demanding a law to fix a universal minimum wage. More than one million workers in banking, telecom and other sectors will go on a nation-wide strike on Friday.

On Tuesday, the central government announced a hike in minimum wage for unskilled non-farm workers in an attempt to placate trade unions that are threatening to go on the nation-wide protest against the government's labour reforms and plans to close loss-making public sector companies.

"The government's minimum wage announcement is completely inadequate. The strike stands and we demand they should enact a Lawto fix minimum (universal) wage," All India Trade Union Congress General Secretary Gurudas Dasgupta said.

The unions contend that calculated monthly, the minimum wage announced by the government comes to ₹9,100 for 26 days, which is significantly below the unions' demand of ₹18,000 a month.

The unions had earlier demanded ₹15,000 as minimum monthly income for daily wagers but the demand was revised after the government accepted the recommendations of the 7th Pay Commission.

Since taking charge in May 2014, Modi has implemented a raft of economic reforms and is trying to ease labour laws to attract foreign investment and make it easier to do business in the country. The unions are also unhappy with the government's plan to shut loss-making companies.

The government aims to raise ₹560 billion ($8.35 billion) through privatisation this fiscal year, and shut down some companies. Losses at 77 state-run companies exceeded $4 billion in the last fiscal year.

Tapan Sen, general secretary of the Centre of Trade Unions, said there had not been any "tangible proactive steps" by the government to address union demands such as a rollback of privatisation in sectors like defence and railways, and an increase in minimum wages.

He said the strike would go on despite Finance Minister Arun Jaitley's promise on Tuesday that the government would release state employees' bonuses for the last two years, and increase minimum wages for unskilled labourers.

The unions also oppose a government directive to state-run pension funds to put more money into stock markets.

Another major union, the Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh, which is loosely affiliated with the Hindu nationalist group Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, the ideological parent of Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party, is not joining the strike.

Some workers at Coal India Ltd are due to join the strike but company officials said they did not expect any shortfall in supplies for power companies as there was an oversupply of the fuel.

With Reuters and PTI inputs