A day before 10 central trade unions have called for a nation-wide general strike to protest against the government’s “anti-worker” policies, labour minister Bandaru Dattatreya on Tuesday announced that the government is working on a slew of labour welfare measures including a minimum monthly wage of Rs 7,100.
“We are finalising amendments to the Minimum Wages Act, 1948 in the interest of the workers to stop their exploitation,” Dattatreya said while appealing to central trade unions to withdraw the strike notice.
“I appeal to the trade unions to reconsider the call of strike in interest of workers and nation,” he stressed.
Dattatreya said essential services are unlikely to be impacted with two trade unions not participating in the strike and another “three or four unions being neutral”.
However, labour leaders denied the claim and said all 10 unions would be striking. Unions at many factories, including some automobile firms in Manesar and Gurgaon will be participating in the strike. Transport services, bank and insurance workers, coal unions, port and dock workers as well as many unorganised sector workers will also join the strike. Railway unions are also expected to hold demonstrations though will not strike work.
The 10 central trade unions together are estimated to have a membership of over 11 crore workers and have over 15,000 affiliated unions across the country.
Significantly, Dattatreya is understood to be leaving for Turkey on Wednesday to attend the G-20 labour minister’s meet and is expected to return on September 6.
According to the amendments being worked out, minimum wages would be applicable to all workers across the country and would be mandatory. The minimum wage calculation, which is being finalised based on guidelines of the Supreme Court and recommendations of the Indian Labour Conference, would also enhance the daily minimum wage to Rs 273 per day from Rs 160 (for unskilled workers) at present.
The ministry is working to increase the payment of bonus to Rs 21,000 from the current Rs 10,000 and has also agreed to demands including extension of social security measures to Aanganwadi and ASHA workers.
Further, the Centre has also written to states for strict enforcement of labour laws and is also planning to do away with the process of interviews for junior-level jobs. Recruitments would be done solely through written examinations for these positions.
The minister said the government has “responded positively” to nine of the 12 demands put forward by the trade unions and there is “just a little gap” on demands relating to withdrawal of policies on permitting foreign direct investment, disinvestment in public sector units and issues of contract workers.
However, trade unions rejected many of these proposals and stressed that they have sought a minimum wage of Rs 15,000 per month.