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Government Employees' Platform Plans Strike From May 1 Over OPS Demand

Shiv Gopal Mishra, convener of the Joint Forum For Restoration of Old Pension Scheme, said the decision to go on indefinite strike from May 1 was taken after talks with the Union government had broken down.
Representative image. Photo: YouTube.

New Delhi: A group of Union and state government employees announced they will go on indefinite strike starting on Labour Day (May 1) this year to demand the restoration of the old pension scheme (OPS), The Hindu reported.

The Joint Forum For Restoration of Old Pension Scheme (JFROPS), which was described as a platform of trade unions and associations working among Union and state government employees, said it had decided to serve strike notices starting March 19.

Under the OPS, which was retired in 2004, retired government employees received half their last-drawn salary every month as a pension. The government concerned would foot the entire amount.

The National Pension Scheme (NPS) replaced the OPS and involves the employee contributing 10% of their basic salary and the government contributing 14% into a corpus, which can be invested into different types of funds.

How much an employee would receive upon retirement depends on the market return on these investments.

Shiv Gopal Mishra, who is convenor of the JFROPS and is among the leaders of a railway workers’ union, told The Hindu that the decision to go on strike was taken after talks with the Union government had broken down.

“We held several protests demanding restoration of OPS. We wrote letters to prime minister and finance minister urging them to restore the OPS. We have also been raising this issue in the JCM [joint consultative machinery] meetings, but the government ignored our demands and we are now forced to go on an indefinite strike,” Mishra was quoted as saying.

The Hindu also cited government employees’ unions as claiming that ahead of the call for a strike, ballots conducted in various government departments suggested that nearly 100% of employees supported a strike.

Proponents of restoring the OPS have said that pension amounts under the NPS are “paltry” and that the new scheme “is a disaster for the retiring employees in their old age and not a win-win situation”.

They have also argued that pensioners were worse off under the NPS because it does not hike pensions on a regular basis in order to correct for inflation.

Some state governments have decided to restore the OPS for their employees.

But the Reserve Bank of India has said that going back to the OPS would increase governments’ liabilities and put their financial security at risk.

The Union government said in parliament in December that it does not plan on restoring the OPS.

It has also warned its employees from going on strike before and argued that their right to form associations did not include a guaranteed right to go on strike.

When Mishra was asked by The Hindu how the model code of conduct for the general elections would affect their planned strike, he said they wanted the issue to be discussed by the people.

“This is an issue that involves lives of crores of people. Let the people discuss and decide on our demands. Even if the model code of conduct comes in picture, the Cabinet will be there, the Cabinet secretary will be there and they can take a decision on our demand,” he told the newspaper.

Another employees’ union leader was cited as saying that ‘all unions’ except the pro-government Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh would take part in their planned strike.

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