By H Mahadevan
All India Trade Union Congress (AITUC) has noted with concern the ”Report of the Expert Committee” of Ministry of Labour & Employment, Government of India, on Determining the Methodology for Fixing the “National Minimum Wage.” It is flawed and questionable on different valid grounds and it cannot be considered full and final in so far as the quantum of National Minimum Wage is concerned.
The basis of arriving at Rs.375 per day or Rs. 9750 per month as of July, 2018 is not indicated and this contradicts the basis on which Rs.18000 per month was decided by the 7th Pay Commission as the minimum much earlier, thus revealing the defective nature of Expert Committee’s recommendations.
There is no recommendation in respect of linkage to cost of living index increases. There must be a scientific formula or process, in absence of which the recommended minimum wage will be eroded.
There is no action or inherent system regarding those units which do not implement even the National Minimum Wage, as earlier held by the Supreme Court that such units have no right to function. In the absence of any such deterrent administrative steps, the implementation of National Minimum Wage will continue to be flouted.
The Expert Committee has failed to take into consideration the provisions of the ILO Convention called “Minimum Wage Fixation Convention”.
The recommendation of productivity-linked revision of National Minimum Wage is not only retrograde but also impractical.
AITUC demands that the Minimum Wage must be considered as a Fundamental Right of the sweated labour, which should be guaranteed under any circumstances, any payment below which should be considered illegal. AITUC demands that the Directive Principles enshrined in the Constitution of India should be followed in respect of fixation of National Minimum Wage.
Specific points of flaw in the recommendations are many the basis for arriving at a National Minimum Wage of Rs 375 per day, which comes to Rs 9750 a month, as of July 2018 is not clear. The basis for fixing Rs 18,000 at an earlier date (as against the demand of Rs 26,000 by the recent Pay Commission, at the lowest, unskilled level contradicts the above figure. What are the deficiencies, or differences between the two figures arrived at or recommended by these two ‘expert’ bodies?
The Additional House Rent Allowance of Rs 55 per day, Rs 1430 per month, for urban cities appears to be too low and not based on realities. If these persons are allotted\ houses by government or co-operative societies on subsidized basis, this figure may be considered. The reality is not reflected in this aspect of the recommendation of the “Expert Committee.”
While the National Minimum Wage is generally opposed by many states, Regional Minimum Wage, based on the study of each region may be acceptable to the states. However, important stakeholders –workers through their trade unions, will have to be taken into confidence, before fixing the ‘Regional Minimum Wage.’
Indexisation linked to cost of living increases is not recommended, while a review once in six months (by whom) is proposed. What happens to the units which do not implement even this NMW; Earlier, SC has held that such units or factories have no right to exist.
Expenditure towards non-food items are increasing over the years. The earlier items known as “luxuries” and “comforts” are gradually taking the shape of “necessities”. An objective study is required to apportion the Minimum Wage into various heads. Presumably the demand of Rs. 26,000 as Minimum Wage seems to have taken care of some of these “new necessities.”
Though recommended, the provisions of the Minimum Wage fixing Convention (No. 131 of 1970) are not adequately taken care of while the National Minimum Wage is fixed now by the ‘Expert Committee’. The recommendation of productivity linked revision towards NMW is impracticable and cannot be accepted.
Economic growth does not guarantee the increase of minimum wage, as admitted in the ‘Background’, that “despite economic growth in the past two decades, low pay and wages disparities are still high.”
There is a need for fixing the maximum wage also and there must a ratio between minimum and maximum wage, either sector wise or based on scientific criteria. If the maximum wage in the relevant sector or area goes up, automatically the minimum wage also must go up on a proportionate basis. There were SC decisions regarding the question of maximum wage.
Relevant Directive principles are to be taken into consideration while the NMW is prescribed; It is high time, NMW becomes the “fundamental Right” of the workers-people at least now, after 60 years of Independence. (IPA Service)