Saturday, July 2, 2016

Several government workers’ unions will announce their next course of action later on Friday which may include a massive railway strike


Union leaders said that there was strong resentment among lower-level Central government employees as the government did not hike the minimum wage to Rs26,000 a month. Photo: AFP

New Delhi: A section of the Central government employees, including those in the railways, road and income tax departments and some other ministries, are likely to go on strike sometime in July after they were “disappointed” by the pay hike the Union government has approved in keeping with the recommendations of the 7th Pay Commission.

Several government workers’ unions will announce their next course of action later on Friday which may include a massive railway strike.

Union leaders said that there was strong resentment among lower-level Central government employees as the government did not hike the minimum wage to Rs.26,000 a month (the commission has suggested Rs.18,000). They have other demands related to the pay hike calculation structure, allowances and pension, among others.

The National Joint Council of Action (NJCA), a confederation of government staff unions, said that as many as 3.3 million Central government employees out of the nearly 5 million are not happy with the commission recommendations.

“The (pay hike) announcement has left a major disappointment for us. We gave several representations to the government… but the government turned a blind eye to it. We have no other alternative now, but to go on strike,” said Shiva Gopal Mishra, general secretary of NJCA, indicating that a strike is imminent.

Mishra, who is also the general secretary of All India Railwaymen’s Federation (AIRF), said the government has given an alibi by appointing two empowered committees to look into any anomalies in the implementation of the pay hikes and in the New Pension System.

In February this year, AIRF had conducted a secret ballot for its members to decide the future course of action on the 7th Pay Commission and their other demands. In the secret ballot, 95% of the 900,000 railway workers who expressed their views supported the strike call. They included railwaymen from all over the country, from 17 zones and seven production units.

Ashok Kanojia, national president of Income Tax Employees Federation, said 2.57 multiplication factor formulas in calculating the new salary has anomalies and needs to be rectified.

In what may create further challenge for the government, several national trade unions, including the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party-affiliated Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh, said that other than a below par minimum wage, they don’t approve of the model shops and establishment law approved by the cabinet on Wednesday.

The Model Shops and Establishments (Regulation of Employment and Conditions of Service) Bill will potentially allow malls, shops, restaurants, banks and cinemas to operate 24 hours a day. The bill will not be passed by Parliament, but shall be forwarded to states with an advisory to adopt with any suitable modification required in the state.

While the government believes that the model law, once adopted by any state, will create more jobs, better utilization of resources and quick return on investments, the unions believe that it will lead to more exploitation of workers without enough salary. The unions also demand that like the government sector, private sector employees should also have a minimum wage of Rs.18,000 per month.

“The model law will allow establishments in the states to have nine or more hours of work and allow women to work in night shifts, which will endanger their security. Model law without approval of Parliament is an attempt to impose on states to allow establishments to have long working hours,” said D.L. Sachdeva, national secretary of the All India Trade Union Congress, a central labour union. He said the national trade unions will convene on 7 July to decide their next course of action.

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