Centre hikes minimum wages and bonus

Source: Business Standard, Aug 31, 2016

New Delhi: The Centre on Tuesday increased the minimum wages and bonus for its employees to pacify trade unions that have called a nationwide strike on Friday.

The Minimum Wage Advisory Board on Tuesday announced a hike in the lowest wage for unskilled central government workers to Rs 350 a day from Rs 246. The increase will also be effective for central public sector undertakings.

“The government has effected a 43 per cent increase in the minimum wage. This was a major demand of the trade unions,” Union Labour Minister Bandaru Dattatreya (pictured) said.Dattatreya has held meetings with trade unions over their charter of demands. The issues have been taken up by an inter-ministerial committee headed by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley.

“The bonus entitlements for 2014-15 and 2015-16 will be released on revised norms. This was pending for two years. After this, the bonus will be covered under the Seventh Pay Commission,” Jaitley said.

The Payment of Bonus Act, 2015, doubled the statutory bonus paid to central government employees and made more workers eligible by raising the salary ceiling from Rs 10,000 a month to Rs 21,000. The Bill was to be effective from April 2015 but was made applicable from April 2014 on a personal intervention by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

The likely financial implications of the higher bonus could be Rs 1,920 crore per annum.

On the opposition to the government’s plans to merge associate banks of the State Bank of India with the parent, Jaitley said, “The merger is not a subject for trade unions.”

“There will be no impact of the  merger on the service conditions of any employee. If the government decides that we need strong banks, then unions will have to change their approach to the whole issue,” Jaitley said.

The issue of providing social security benefits to the unorganised sector like anganwadi, mid-day meal and Asha volunteers will be examined by a committee that will submit its report at the “earliest”.

Jaitley said the registration of  contract workers and their staffing agencies was mandatory and states would be advised to strictly implement it. Contractors would face appropriate action for any violation, he warned.

The Bharatiya Janata Party’s trade union wing Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh (BMS) said it would not participate in this week’s strike. “The BMS is withdrawing from the strike as the government has taken progressive steps,” said V Upadhya, general secretary of the BMS.

Left-leaning trade unions, however, said they would proceed with the strike. “The announcement on daily wages merely maintains the status quo,” said Tapan Sen of the Centre of Indian Trade Unions. “No major demand has been accepted. There is no question of calling off the strike,” he added. As many as 10 central trade unions had given the call for a one-day pan-India strike on September 2 to protest against the government’s labour reforms.

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