ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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White Collar Turns Blue

Government employees, both at the Centre and in the States, are on the warpath. Discontent among them has come to the surface in Assam, U P and Maharashtra in the last few months. Though they have not perhaps gone to extreme limits, the intense turmoil in their ranks is more and more in evidence as the economic situation gets worse and worse. Fifteen years ago we could hardly imagine middle class employees, men and women, taking out processions in the streets, holding placards and shouting slogans. It has become a familiar sight now, with the bank and insurance employees in the vanguard. 

Government employees, both at the Centre and in the States, are on the warpath. Discontent among them has come to the surface in Assam, U P and Maharashtra in the last few months. Though they have not perhaps gone to extreme limits, the intense turmoil in their ranks is more and more in evidence as the economic situation gets worse and worse. Fifteen years ago we could hardly imagine middle class employees, men and women, taking out processions in the streets, holding placards and shouting slogans. It has become a familiar sight now, with the bank and insurance employees in the vanguard. Though one Cannot take exception to white collar workers organizing themselves, it has to be recognised that there is a disquieting aspect to the trend. It may be worthwhile to diagnose the problems which drive educated middle class employees to trade union action against the background of recent happenings.

The conflict between the Maharashtra State Government and its employees, which came to a head with the employees taking casual leave en masse on August 11, in open defiance of a warning by the Government, shows the typical characteristics of relations between the Government and its white-collar employees today. This relationship is profoundly influenced by economic unrest caused by rise in prices and failure of earnings to keep pace with the cost of living. The main demands of the Maharashtra Government employees were two : payment of dearness allowance at Central Government rates and cancellation of the transfer of 55,000 employees to Zilla Parishads. The reasonableness of the first demand was admitted by the Government, which, however, pleaded its inability to bear the extra economic burden because of paucity of resources. The second demand was also indirectly economic in character because the September 17, 1966 employees who were to be transferred were apprehensive of job insecurity, loss of increments and other economic disadvantages.

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