Pension issue:Left unions in Kerala to strike work on Aug 21

Pension issue:Left unions in Kerala to strike work on Aug 21

With the Congress-led UDF Government in Kerala sticking to its decision to introduce Participatory Pension Scheme (PPS) in state services, pro-Left employees unions have threatened to strike work on August 21.

Union leaders announced the decision after talks convened by Chief Minister Oommen Chandy last evening failed to bring them around.

The unions, owing allegiance to Congress and other UDF constituents, would not join the strike but they too voiced reservations to bring in PPS from next year, scrapping the decades old statutory pension.

"The talks were not intended to dispel genuine fears of employees and teachers. We will go ahead with our agitation, starting with a token strike on August 21," said N Sreekumar, convener of Action Council of State Employees and Teachers' Organizations after the discussions.

Government had earlier this month decided to implement PPS for employees joining the service from next year, sparking protests from opposition LDF and pro-Left service unions.
Chandy, however, defended the decision holding "it is a far sighted measure meant to save the state from a future financial disaster."

Right from the start, he has pointed out that Kerala spent 90.34 per cent of its tax and non-tax revnue on salary, pension and interest on debts, with very little resources left for capital investment.

Opposition LDF and employees unions have dubbed it as a move in tandem with liberalisation and globalisation.

Other factors like longer longevity of people and steady increase of pensions every year, outstripping serving employees have also been cited as reasons for taking the radical measure in the interest of the future fiscal stability of the state.

According to government figures, Kerala now has 5.50 lakh service pensioners against the total staff strength of 5.245 lakh. Every year, an additional 20,000 join the pension rolls, making it a recurring commitment.

The state's pension commitment had jumped to Rs 8178 crore a year from Rs 1,838 crore in the last 11 years.

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