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Sunday, November 20, 2016

Give relief to wage earners post cash crunch: Unions to FM

Press Trust of India | New Delhi Nov 20, 2016

Trade unions on Saturday urged Finance Minister Arun Jaitley to take immediate steps to mitigate difficulties being faced by wage earners and small trades due to the cash crunch.

"The new issue added in this discussion apart from our 16-point charter was because of demonetisation and the scandal that has broken out," Centre of Indian Trade Unions President Tapan Sen told reporters here after unionists' pre-Budget consultations with Jaitley.

"Had they gone ahead with the preparation, we would have welcomed it. They are more interested in public relation than for the actual cause. This decision of the (Narendra) Modi government proves this."

As many as 12 central trade unions' representatives met Jaitley today for pre-Budget consultations as part of the customary exercise ahead of the general Budget.

Sen said, "About 85 per cent of the currency was withdrawn. Small traders and unorganised sector workers are going hungry. Despite taking so much of load, bank employees are working till 12 at night, still they are earning the wrath of people for quite justified reasons."

He put the onus on the government to infuse more cash.

In the memorandum jointly submitted by 10 central trade unions, they expressed deep concern over the difficulties being faced by the common man, especially the daily wage earners.

"We urge the government to take urgent steps to ameliorate their difficulties," they said in the memorandum.

They demanded that income tax exemption ceiling for the salaried persons and pensioners be raised to Rs 5 lakh per annum. They also pushed for tax exemption in totality for all perks and fringe benefits in the railways and linking minimum monthly wage to Consumer Price Index which should be at least Rs 18,000.

They made a representation for raising the ceiling of gratuity to Rs 20 lakh from January 1, 2016 as done in the case of central government employees and minimum monthly pension of Rs 3,000 under the Employees Pension Scheme run by EPFO.

All workers, they said, should be paid pension and the same should be construed as deferred wage.

The unions also sought withdrawal of notification issued for utilisation of money in 'inoperative' EPF accounts for the Senior Citizen Welfare Fund and wanted the government to scrap decision to invest EPF fund in the stock market.

The 10 unions opposed the "desperate anti-worker" measures

of changing labour laws by the Centre as well as some states. "The government should take steps for initiating discussion and resolving the 12 point charter of demands," they demanded.

They regretted that none of their suggestions in the last pre-Budget meetings have been positively reflected in previous budgets. "Rather drastic cut to the tune of Rs 4.40 lakh crore was made in the allocation of funds for social sector schemes in the last budget. This drastic cut needs to be restored and covered up," they added.

Their stated position is the contract/casual workers should not be deployed on jobs of perennial nature.

"Till regularisation, these workers should be paid the same wages and benefits as paid to regular workers doing the same and similar type of work as has been reiterated by the Supreme Court recently," the unions added.

These unions also demanded that the new pension scheme be withdrawn and newly-recruited employees of central and state bodies on or after January 1, 2004 be covered under the old pension scheme.

The scope of MGNREGA, according to them, should be extended to agriculture operations and urban areas as well and employment for a minimum 200 days with guaranteed statutory wage should be provided.

Opposing foreign direct investment in important sectors, they said, "FDI should not be allowed in crucial sectors like defence production, railways, financial sector, retail trade and other strategic sectors. The government on the other hand, has allowed 100 per cent FDI in these sectors, including pharmaceuticals.

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