for building a democratic labour movement in India
Government bargains and proposes: a) significant increase minimum wages and making them mandatory across the country; b) increase in the bonus ceiling; c) widening the coverage of provident fund and health insurance to include construction as well as workers in schemes such as aanganwadis
NEW DELHI: The government has agreed to move a step forward on four key demands of the central trade unions, urging them to reconsider their call for a nationwide strike on September 2. A dozen central trade unions have called the strike against the government’s labour reforms.
An inter-ministerial committee led by finance minister Arun Jaitley on Thursday proposed to significantly increase minimum wages, besides making them mandatory across the country. It also suggested an increase in the bonus ceiling as well as widening the coverage of provident fund and health insurance to include construction as well as workers in schemes such as aanganwadis.
The offer has not met the expectations of the majority of trade unions barring the RSS-affiliated Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh. All the 12 central trade unions will meet again today (Friday) to take a view on the government’s latest proposal after which a final decision on the upcoming strike will be taken.
According to petroleum minister Dharmendra Pradhan, the labour ministry will soon move a cabinet note to make minimum wages dependent on a formula that will be mandatory for all states and across all categories of workers. ET had recently reported that the labour ministry is finalizing minimum wages for different categories of workers and would make these mandatory for states.
Rough calculations by the labour ministry suggest that wages for unskilled workers could range from Rs 7,100 to Rs 10,000 per month across three categories of states while that for skilled workers would range between Rs 14,200 and Rs 20,000, a significant jump from the existing national floor level wage of less than Rs 5,000 a month that was only advisory in nature. Unions have been demanding a minimum wage of Rs 15,000 a month.
“In the last two months, the government has met trade unions thrice in July and twice in August to discuss their 12-point charter of demands and have provided a solution to each of their demands, key being a revolution on minimum wages,” Pradhan said, adding that the government has appealed to central trade unions to reconsider their decision for a general strike in the interest of the economy.
The proposal also includes increasing the ceiling on bonuses from the current Rs 3,500 to Rs 10,000 and increasing the eligibility for such payments to workers earning up to Rs 20,000 a month as against Rs 10,000 now. The unions, however, have demanded removal of all ceilings on payment and eligibility, provident fund and an increase in the quantum of gratuity.
“Our call for strike still remains as we are not satisfied with what they have offered only as part of the discussion,” said AK Padmanabhan, president of the Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU). Ashok Singh of Indian National Trade Union Congress (INTUC), who was part of the meeting, said that the strike is still on and the unions will meet today (Friday) to assess preparations. However, BMS appeared to be drifting away from the rest of the unions after the meeting.
“We are really happy with the government’s initiative to come forward and listen to unions in such a creative and aggressive manner,” said Vrijesh Upadhyay, BMS general secretary. “There is a big assurance from the government that all labour reforms will be through tripartite consultation only, a point which was made by Prime Minister Narendra Modi recently and reiterated by finance minister Arun Jaitley today.”