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PM for talks to find a solution

By Aarti Dhar

NEW DELHI OCT. 16. The Prime Minister, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, said here today that there was a need to arrive at a consensus to deal with the situation arising out of the recent Supreme Court ruling that Government employees had no constitutional, moral or legal right to go on strike.

"The Supreme Court gave a judgment which the trade unions did not like. It is possible that even I did not like it. But we need to sit together to find a way out of this situation," Mr. Vajpayee said at the 39th session of the Indian Labour Conference after trade union leaders, present at the meet, demanded that the Centre clarify its stand on the ruling. He initially chose not to respond, but later said talks could be held only with those interested in "finding ways" but not "with those who shut the door for a solution".

This reaction came after union leaders demanded that the Government introduce legislation to restore the right of the workers.

Earlier, trade unionists had sought his reaction on the court ruling and the fate of 6,000 employees of the Tamil Nadu Government dismissed after they went on strike. Since Mr. Vajpayee's speech made no mention of the two issues, the union leaders were on their feet as soon as he concluded.

The Union Labour Minister, Sahib Singh Verma, said neither the Government nor laws barred workers from going on strike. The court ruling, he said, was applicable only to Government employees. However, the union leaders insisted that the Prime Minister make a statement on the issue.

Earlier in his speech, Mr. Vajpayee said there was a need to take a fresh look at the legislative, administrative and judicial system in the wake of the new realities of the domestic industrial climate and the new aspirations in the labour market. "Your cooperation is vital for evolving a common vision to boost productivity, production, competitiveness and the employment creation potential of the Indian economy which would be in the interest of our working class."

Admitting that the existing labour laws were only for those in the organised sector, he said his Government wished to bring suitable changes in them to facilitate speedy employment generation in all sectors.

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