Proposed hike in minimum wages draws flak

The 40 per cent hike in minimum wages proposed by the government is likely to face stiff resistance with stakeholders pulling in different directions. While enterprise owners and employers have termed it "too steep" or "unjustifiable," trade unions representing workers are unhappy on account of it being not enough and "too less."

Both the stakeholders, in fact are planning to come up with strongly worded objections to the draft notification, before its deadline expires in two months time in December 25, 2012, after which it comes into effect.

All the three industry representative bodies when contacted had their reservations on the proposed minimum wages that range from `205 per day to `294 per day, depending on the skill of the job as well as nature of industry.

Speaking on behalf of the numerous small units, Mr Shekhar Sardesai, president, GSIA, said that increase of 40 per cent in minimum wage from the current `150 per day to its future level, in a matter of two years would adversely impact small processing units or those who do "job works."

Pointing out that 80 per cent of the costs of small processors were on "labour cost," he explained that they would be "severely affected." The GSIA members, Mr Sardesai added are "in discussion to formulate their objections before presenting it to labour department."

According to Mr Binayak Dutta, chairman, HR Committee, GCCI, "The government proposed wage rate seems to have no rationale as no explanations have been given on its basis." Secondly on parameters of "CPI, comparison with neighbouring states or with minimum wage of `158 given under NREGA" the government proposal errs and can therefore
be faulted.

Mr Anil Kher, chairman of CII-Goa said that minimum wages should have been put forward after consulting industry. Further, "even fixing an amount higher than rate of increase in CPI was harmful as it would lead to inflation." Further the government’s "arbitrary announcement" could "lead to problems of industrial unrest" as negotiations would have to be from a higher limit.

However, on the other side of the fence workers belonging to the ‘Goa Convention of Workers’ of seven trade unions, have termed the proposed minimum wage of `205 as "too paltry" and plans to ask for higher wage of `385 per day.

According to Mr Christopher Fonseca, trade union leader, "Workers in Goa are shocked and angry at the minimum wages proposed and have taken a collective decision to ask for not less than `10,000 per month for unskilled labour." This he said works out to wage of `385 per day

Asked whether industrial units in Goa pay the existing minimum wages, Mr Fonseca said that once "our recommendation is accepted we will see to it that the minimum wages are implemented by all establishments."

As per law, minimum wages of workers have to be revised every six months in line with increase in prices of essential commodities. In Goa wages were last revised in May 2010, when the rate was increased from `103 per day to `150. The main contention of industry is that the proposed wage rate is too sudden and "too much" and needs to be moderated. As for workers, their fingers are crossed for a "fair deal." [NT]