Wednesday, November 25, 2015

According to NFIR functionaries, the main points of contention are the commission's recommendations to set minimum salary for the government employees, abolition of several allowances, and tweaking of the formulaes used to deduce several allowances.

Railway employees cutting across the union affiliations have opposed the recommendations of the 7th Pay Commission and have planned several protests to get the government to listen. While the Communist-backed All-India Railwaymen's Federation (AIRF) has decided to observe November 27 as Black Day, Congress-backed National Federation of Indian Railwaymen (NFIR) has shot off a letter to finance minister Arun Jaitley, highlighting their objections.

According to NFIR functionaries, the main points of contention are the commission's recommendations to set minimum salary for the government employees, abolition of several allowances, and tweaking of the formulaes used to deduce several allowances.


AIRF's opposition has a wider expanse and includes moves by the railway ministry to open up several sectors of the railways to foreign direct investment (FDI), public-private partnerships (PPP) and privatisation of some of the railway operations.

"The railway's reach is such that it works as a communication spine of the country. Anger among railway employees will obviously spread nationwide and also to other segments of the government employees. It doesn't augur well for the government," said an employee affiliated to the AIRF.

A senior railway official said, "The protests have the potential to derail the restructuring that railway minister Suresh Prabhu wants to bring in. He is already unable to implement some of the more radical suggestions of the Bibek Debroy Committee report. The employee protests will only create more ill-will against the government's handling of the railways, which in turn will affect the pace of railway reforms."

The 7th Pay Commission would hit the railways in another way as well. With almost 13 lakh employees, of which a huge number get overtime and other allowances due to the peculiarities of the job, the railways is looking at a pay-out of several thousands of crores. It had paid out Rs74,000 crore as 6th Pay Commission arrears in 2006, which had taken the public transporter into a deep financial mess.

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