Centre offers bonus, wage sops, but trade unions firm on strike

NEW DELHI: The Centre announced a slew of measures on Tuesday, including a 42% increase in minimum wages for unskilled non-agricultural workers to Rs 350 a day and payment of bonus for two years to central government employees, in a bid to get trade unions to call off their proposed nationwide strike on Friday.

But the move was rejected by the unions, which stuck to their plan to paralyse the functioning of all public sector units, including state-run banks, in protest against divestment and FDI in sectors such as defence, railways and insurance. Union finance minister Arun Jaitley announced the measures after discussions with Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh, the RSS-affiliated trade union, which had already opted out of the strike.

The payment of bonus for 2014-15 and 2015-16 to the central government employees will be based on revised norms and will cost the exchequer Rs 1,920 crore annually.

The Centre also assured that amendments made to the Payment of Bonus Act will be implemented strictly and it will support the cause of unions in high courts and the Supreme Court. Labour minister Bandaru Dattatreya said 97 cases regarding implementation of the amended law were pending in 14 high courts and the SC. Trade unions have put for ward a 12-point charter of demands, which includes dropping plans for disinvestment as well as reversing decisions related to allowing higher FDI in sectors such as defence, railways and insurance. Labour minister Bandaru Dattatreya said eight of these were related to labour issues and the government was working to address concerns on seven of them.

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“In the last-one-and-a-half years, the inter-ministerial years, the inter-ministerial committee had meeting with central trade unions. Trade unions placed various demands. Some were labour-related and some related to economic policy issues. The government has taken some decisions with regard to those on the basis of their recommendations,” finance minister Arun Jaitley told reporters.

The statement issued by the government also said that the Centre will issue advisories to states for ensuring completion of trade union registration within 45 days. It said registration of contract workers and their staffing agencies is mandatory and states will be advised to strictly implement them and errant contractors will face action for violation of law. The issue of giving social security benefit to the unorganised sector (like Anganwadi, midday meal, Asha volunteers) will be examined by a committee.
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This government has marginalized the labor, farmers, low grade workers.Brown American

On the unions’ opposition to plans to merge associate banks of SBI with the parent bank, the FM said, “The merger is not subject of trade unions. Their service condi tions are not being hurt adversely or affected at all. If government decides that we need strong banks, then unions would have to change their approach to the whole issue.”

Asked about not calling trade unions other than BMS by the inter-ministerial group on labour issues, Dattatrey said he held a meeting with all trade unions on July 18.