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UPPCL Strike Called Off, UP Govt Assures to Implement Dec 3 Agreement

Govt decides to look into demands, revokes all legal actions like FIRs, suspension of engineers and termination of services of contractual staff

Lucknow: Protesting power employees and engineers, who were on a 72-hour strike from the midnight of March 16 to press for the implementation of the December 3 agreement across Uttar Pradesh, decided to roll back their strike prematurely on Sunday noon after an assurance from the government.

The government has decided to "look into their demands" and revoke all legal actions- lodging FIRs, suspension of engineers and termination of services of 1,332 contractual staff- initiated against the employees who were part of the stir that threatened to push the state into a severe power crisis.

The 72-hour strike called by the UP Rajya Vidyut Karmachari Sanyukt Sangharsh Samiti to press its demand for implementation of the December 3 agreement began on March 16 at 10 p.m and was to complete its period at 10 p.m on Sunday.

However, the strike was called off before the scheduled time after a formula acceptable to both parties was hammered out in a fresh round of meetings between the Minister of Energy and the Sangharsh Samiti leaders in Lucknow on Sunday.

Announcing the withdrawal of the strike, Shailendra Dubey, convener of UP Rajya Vidyut Karmacharis Sanyukt Sangharsh Samiti, said, "A number of rounds of talks were held with the government and we have decided to roll back the strike. 

Dubey in a joint press conference claimed that the state government has "accepted" their demands and promised not to take "any action" against the employees.

UP Minister of Energy AK Sharma, too, has publicly promised to roll back the “vindictive terminations” and appealed to the employees to go back to work and attend to the problems at the power generating units and electricity sub-stations. Sharma said that the state government held multiple rounds of talks with the employees' union which eventually ended the stalemate. He assured that the action initiated against the employees would be rolled back.

The Minister announced that the December 3, 2022 agreement would be revisited and the government would try to implement it.

"Respecting the direction of the Chief Minister and the high court, we have decided to call off our 72-hour symbolic protest one day in advance in view of massive public interest. Besides, we raised our problems and reminded him (minister AK Sharma) of the December 3 agreement and he agreed positively to implement them as soon as possible," Dubey told NewsClick.

Over one lakh power employees from across the state started their strike on Friday in protest of irregular pay compensation and the failure of the state government in appointing an Uttar Pradesh Power Corporation Limited (UPPCL) chairman through a selection process to meet specific requirements. The employees have also been demanding doing away with the arrangement of outsourcing the upkeep of transmission substations, cashless treatment facilities for the employees, reintroduction of the Old Pension Scheme (OPS) and rolling back of the Electricity (Amendment) Bill 2022 among others.

The entire state electricity sector was under heavy grip of the strike. Power generation had drastically fallen at several stations like Opra, Anpara, and Parichha. After 65 hours of the t strike, the government stepped back.

On Friday, the Allahabad High Court expressed serious displeasure over the ongoing protest by the UP power employees despite its December 2022 order that the power supply should not be disrupted due to the employees’ strike. The stir by the employees saw multiple power generation units getting shut – stoking an electricity crisis that threatened to escalate into a law and order problem. The situation prompted the state government to deploy police at the generating units and substations. Even as the power employees refused to budge from their aggressive stance, the state government invoked National Security Act (NSA) and registered cases against the employees under the Essential Services Maintenance Act.

NewsClick has reported earlier that over 1,332 outsourced power staff were sacked by the authorities for participating in a strike on Friday. Dozens of employees were arrested, many of them allegedly forced to work for 17 hours while many of them were held captive for hours to prevent them from joining the strike.

Electricity Employees Federation of India (EEFI) welcomed the decision and congratulated the struggle of the electricity employees and engineers for the victory. "Resisting and Defying the government’s onslaught including the vindictive invocation of draconian ESMA, threat of NSA and massive termination, the determined strikers have emerged victorious.”

"At the call of NCCOEEE, in thousands of places, electricity workers all across the country came into the street on March 16 in solidarity and support of the striking UP workers. EEFI salutes their spirit and participation. This magnificent victory of the Striking UP electricity workers is in a row of victories, starting from Maharashtra, then Karnataka and today UP. This proves again that the determined valiant struggle of the electricity-like strategic sector workers can only put a bridle to these anti-people actions of the current authoritarian Modi-Yogi-led BJP regime. This is a time-tested truth with the experience of Haryana, Chandigarh, Puducherry and Srinagar anti-privatisation struggle of electricity workers. In all cases, the government was compelled to step back," Prasanta N Chowdhury, NCCOEEE convener, said.

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