COLLECTIVE BARGAINING FOR REVISION OF WAGE STRUCTURE AND OTHER DEMANDS: COM. S.K. VYAS
The Confederation of Central Government Employees and Workers have submitted a 15-point Charter of Demands to the Government of India through a mass deputation on 26-07-12 in which more than 20 thousand Central Government employees from all over the country had joined in the march to Parliament in support of this Charter. The Confederation of Central Government Employees and Workers is organizing a country wide campaign by holding meetings / District and State level Conventions etc. to prepare the employees for a strike action on 12-12-2012.
Why should we wait for ten years for wage revision?
The revision of the existing wage structure by appointing 7 CPC effective from 01-01-2011 is the most pressing and urgent demand. There are four major considerations on which this demand has been made. In the first place wage revision in all the Public Sector Undertakings and in other Sectors usually takes place every 5th year. The next revision in the Public Sector Undertakings is due from 01-01-2012, the last being w.e.f.01-01-2007. Why should Central Government employees have to wait for a longer period of 10 years before the next revision becomes due? It is on this consideration that the Confederation of Central Government Employees and Workers has demanded the setting up of 7th Central Pay Commission immediately to revise the wage structure w.e.f. 01-01-2011.
The existing wage structure revised by 6th CPC and which has been implemented from 01-01-2006 is not only most anomalous, but also totally irrational and inadequate. It is anomalous because by giving a system of wage band and Grade Pay and grouping together some of the time scales, what has actually been done is that, the highest minimum pay in the group which is also the minimum of the other pay scales in the group, has been reduced to the revised minimum of the lowest pay scale resulting in a very anomalous situation that a person promoted to any post in the group is fixed below the deemed minimum of that post. There is no scientific determination of fitment benefit. Normally fitment benefit is equal to the amount which is equal to the difference between the revised and pre-revised minimum and is expressed in terms of percentage of pre-revised minimum. What this CPC has done is that they have given 40% of pre-revised maximum as Grade Pay / fitment benefit. This system of fitment benefit is not a uniform benefit, for one who is at the minimum or lower stage will get a higher benefit and one who is at the higher stage in the pre-revised pay scale will get lesser benefit. It can’t be called a fitment benefit, as it is not related to the difference between the revised and pre-revised minimum. The Pay Band is in fact nothing but pay plus DA which was admissible in the lowest pay scale in the band and which has been made applicable for all the pay scales in that band. The only increase which has been provided is represented by the Grade Pay i.e. 40% of pre-revised maximum. This increase as per the computation done will be subsumed by way of difference in the DA increases by the end of the year 2012. In other words, from 01-01-2013 the employees will begin to get lesser Pay and Allowances than what they would have got in terms of 5th CPC wage structure. Therefore, the increase provided as a result of revision of 6th CPC is quite inadequate and another revision has become due. The existing wage structure is irrational because it is not based upon any principle of wage determination like need based minimum norms or fair comparison with outside rates, which is universally applicable in all the other countries of the world. We want that our wage structure should be on the basis of scientifically devised principles of wage revision. Another principle of wage determination is that a revised minimum is fixed at the level of unskilled worker and other pay scales in the pyramid of the Pay Scales are determined, keeping in view the well established and evolved vertical and horizontal relativities. The wage structure given by 6th CPC has totally smashed the existing relativities. The lowest minimum wage has not been fixed for unskilled worker. It has been fixed at the level of skilled worker, who is a matriculate. The result is that all unskilled workers who have not acquired matriculation have been debarred from the Govt. employment. Such a wage structure is not acceptable to the people of India because large number of rural youth who do not acquire the matriculation are languishing in the employment market. But they have no opportunity in the Government Sector because of this recommendation. The existing relativity between unskilled and skilled worker was 50% at the level of the skilled worker, the minimum of the unskilled worker being Rs. 2550 and that of skilled worker being Rs.3050. In the existing arrangement the relativity is represented by Grade Pay which is Rs.1800 at the minimum level and Rs.1900 at the next level. That means the vertical relativity is reduced to 20% from existing 50%. General recommendation regarding Pay Band is that it should be 1.86 multiple of the existing pre-revised minimum so that it represents the existing Pay and Allowances as admissible on 01-01-2006. The Government of India however, has given higher multiple of three times of pre-revised minimum in PB 4 without offering any explanation for this unrelated increase. The demand of the employees that at least 2.625 times of the existing wages may be uniformly provided, if not three times, which has not been accepted by the Government. If this has been accepted every Government employee would have been granted 41% increase in their pre-revised wages uniformly. The 5th CPC has revised the entire wage structure by applying a common multiple of 3.25. A Class IV employee whose minimum was Rs.750 therefore, got Rs. 2550 and Cabinet Secretary, whose pay was Rs.9000 was revised to Rs.30000. Such a common multiplying factor has not been provided by the 6CPC. Therefore, it has recommended a wage structure which gives inflated benefit to Class I Officer and very reduced and inadequate benefit to the rest of the employees. These are the reasons on which the employees have to be granted another wage increase through the 7th CPC w.e.f 01-01-2011.
The 6th CPC bid good-bye to the concept of merger of DA
Next important demand in the Charter is merger of 50% of DA as Dearness Pay. If we go through the effort put in by the CG employees movement for achieving this demand we will find that way back in 1962, when the 2nd CPC had not given any formula for DA and Government had imposed a very retrograde DA formula by not providing 100% neutralization, the Confederation has raised a demand for indexing of the wages annually as is being done in other countries like Great Britain etc. The Gadgil Committee appointed by the Government recommended for the merger of total DA with Pay for the purposes of pension. Third CPC, then recommended that, as soon as the Cost of living Index crosses 272 points , the DA then admissible should be merged with pay for the purpose of pension. Later on, the employees’ organizations further negotiated and obtained merger of DA up to 320 points, not only for the purpose of Pension but also, for the purpose of Pay and Allowances. The next merger of DA up to 468 points (148% DA ) was done by Government before appointing the 4th CPC. Employees Organizations then demanded that the system of merger should be regulated and should happen automatically as and when the DA increased by 50%. To achieve this demand and other demands, like setting up of 5th CPC, grant of IR, increasing the bonus ceiling etc, entire Central Government employees represented by Confederation, AIRF and AIDEF had to join together and gave a call for indefinite strike. The Govt. then negotiated a settlement by merging 20% DA and referring the rest of DA merger to the 5th CPC and conceding all other demands. The 5th CPC merged 98% DA which was then admissible and recommended that as and when the DA increase of 50% takes place, it should be merged with the Pay. Thus we had achieved a well regulated merger of DA with pay as and when it is increased by 50%. The 6th CPC has undone this achievement; rather it snatched away this benefit from our hands, for reasons which are totally absurd. Therefore, we cannot but insist for continuation of the system of merger which has recommended by the 5th CPC and accepted by the Government. No Movement will tolerate if the already achieved benefit is taken away from it. Hence, we press for this demand.
Our fate tied to the vagaries of Stock Market
Another important demand is withdrawal of PFRDA bill and restoration of the statutory pension scheme to all the employees who entered the service on or after 01-01-2004. For the present, the new contributory pension scheme, which is a defined contribution as opposed to defined pension benefit scheme, has been introduced in respect of the employees who joined service on or after 01-01-2004. At the first place, pension is the liability of the Government. The Supreme Court of India ruled that a pension has been earned by an employee while he is serving and therefore is in the nature of deferred wage which can be claimed by an employee by way of Fundamental Right to Property. By a convention of ILO every employer is bound to provide an appropriate fund to finance the social security to an employee after his retirement. Some employers provide it through Contributory Provident Fund, which consists of one month wage each year to be funded by the employer. Some have a system of monthly payments after retirement instead of one time lump sum payment. In both cases, the benefit is well defined, whether it is in the nature of pension or contributory Provident Fund. And it is the liability of the employer/Government. In the NPS what is defined is not the benefit but the amount which will be contributed by the employee. According to this scheme, the fund contributed by the employee with matching contribution by the Government will be invested in the Equity Market. If the wealth, thus accumulated is enough, 40% of this will be invested in annuity, when the employee quits the service. And his pension will be what that annuity provides. It cannot therefore be a defined benefit, namely 50% of last pay drawn. In most of the cases, the return is much less than 50% of last pay drawn. The benefit given by such schemes which are in operation elsewhere, on an average, not exceeded 20% to 30% of last pay drawn. In USA there were several such funds operated not only by various States of US but also by many big companies. As a result of the recession in the year 2008 in USA, many big companies declared bankrupt with the result that about more than 3.5 trillion dollars of pension wealth was wiped out. The workers not only lost their pension but also their employment. Besides this, such a scheme is needed only in countries where major portion of the population is too old to earn. So far as India is concerned, it is a country in which, the youth capable of earning are more than 70%. And therefore, such a scheme is not at all warranted. Various experts have undertaken projections of the pension liability in coming years. They have found that excepting periodical escalation caused as a result of wage revision, the pension liability in the Government Sector tends to be below 1% of GDP, which the country can well afford. On this ground also, this NPS is uncalled for and has to be rescinded. In PFRDA Bill a provision has been made empowering the Government/Authority to extend the operation of this scheme to all workers who are presently exempted, like those who are in service prior to 01-01-04 and Defence personnel. Thus, the danger of they being also sucked into this scheme is always there. The Authority has also been empowered to alter the Scheme of the Statutory Pension in order to bring it at par with the NPS. And therefore, we have to fight for withdrawal of PFRDA bill. We have to continue this fight even if this law is enacted and persist in struggle till such time this law is repealed. So this demand is going to survive even after a settlement is reached on other demands.
Denying Right to Strike is attacking our Collective Bargaining power
Collective bargaining right i.e. Right to Strike is one of the fundamental rights which have been recognized by the ILO in its various Conventions like 85, 98 & 115. It is understood that the imperialist Government of Britain, when they were Rulers of this country did not bestow this right to the labour employed by them because they treated them as slaves. But Independent India cannot deny us this right , which is being enjoyed by other workers. Because, by denying this right to us (Public Servants), the Government is practicing discrimination which is unconstitutional. We claim this Right as a Right flowing from the principle of rights to all Citizens. It is another thing that we will continue to exercise this right as and when needed. And we are not beggars before the Government for bestowing this right. Here it will be apt to mention that even Sri. Jagjivan Ram in the year 1966 while addressing the inaugural meeting of the National Council of JCM had advocated that the Central Government employees should have the Right to Strike, because if, it is not there, the Government as an employer will also not respect the employees Organizations and not address their aspirations. Therefore we demand that all the collective bargaining rights including Right to Strike should be bestowed to the employees.
Compassionate Appointment is a Sacred Obligation
We have been insisting since 1994 in the forum of JCM that restriction on the compassionate ground appointments to 5% should go. Railways the biggest employer, employing more than 50% of the C.G. employees, is not imposing this restriction. Why others should be denied? The Standing Parliamentary Committee of DOP&T has declared that this system of Compassionate appointments gives a standing assurance to every new entrant in Government service that if he dies in harness, his family will not be left in lurch. And therefore, it is a sacred obligation on the Government to honour it by offering employment to a family member of the deceased Government Servant. It had now been also recognized by the Law Department that there is no such restriction imposed by the Supreme Court of India. This restriction has been imposed through an executive order which Railways has not been following. And therefore, just like in the case of Railway employees, we should also get compassionate appointment without any limitation of 5% quota in vacancies. And also there is no such quota in the Roster. An employee who is given such an appointment belongs to OC/ SC/ST /OBC will be adjusted in the respective quotas.
A cruel exploitation of the Society
Outsourcing/downsizing / off- loading/contractorisation and corporatization will continue to be opposed by us for very obvious reasons. We don’t share the belief of the Government that the entire work in the Government to implement the social reforms like education should be handed over to the private hands. And the Government should be confined to Law and Order and Administration of Justice. The Government has therefore resorted to huge downsizing over a period of last two decades, resulting in a situation in which most of the Departments have become nonviable. The spree of downsizing has to be resisted and fought. One method adopted to downsize is that they will off load the work which is being done. Even in Departments like Audit , many of the Auditing units are being exempted from Audit. In other places the annual audit has been converted into biennial/triennial Audit. Quantum of Audit has been restricted to reducing manpower. Outsourcing is another form of downsizing. For achieving this downsizing, many functions are either being given to NGOs, Societies or from on Department to another Department. The work of filing the IT Returns has been handed over to Postal Department. System of Franchisee in Postal Department for sale of stamps is multiplying. This type of outsourcing has resulted in a system which is not accountable to anybody. And therefore, undesirable irregularities are multiplying. And even Government revenue is passing into private hands. Uncontrolled corruption is being practiced by these private agencies to which the functions have been outsourced. Contractorisation is very rampant in Public Sector undertakings. 80% of the workforce is contract workers. It is now discreetly creeping into Government Services. The 6th CPC has recommended the contractorisation of Watch and Ward Staff and other unskilled labour. This is a conspiracy whereby the Formal Sector employment with decent wages and perks is being converted into informal Sector with indecent fixed wages and no perks or even social security measures like pension and Medicare. Obviously we cannot but oppose such policies. Corporatization is an indirect method of eventual privatization. BSNL is the latest example. With the Government Telecom was earning about Rs. 8000 crores. In other words, highest revenue was generated. Today it is running into losses as a corporate entity of BSNL. Workers are not getting Bonus for the last two years. Medicare scheme has been withdrawn. Employees have been persuaded to go on VR and then seek reemployment on fixed lower wages. An employee drawing Rs. 50,000 after being paid VR amounts is being re-employed at Rs. 8000 p.m. At this rate, the day is not far off when the entire corporation is sold to some private entity in order to pay back the ADB loan. Obliviously, we the Central Government employees along with other workers will continue to oppose these policies which are anti people and anti worker policies.
How long they will remain Exra-Departmental?
Postal Department is keeping the half of its work force out of the boundaries of the Department. They are labeled as Extra Departmental Workers and denied the status of Government employees, in spite of the favourable judicial pronouncement from the highest Court of the land that, they are the civil servants. They were kept out of the purview of the Central Pay Commission. They are denied pension, medical facilities, equal bonus etc. Hence, it is being demanded that the GDS employees should be brought under the purview of 7th CPC. It is utmost important to seriously press for the status of holders of civil posts for these large chunk of the workforce by dismantling the Extra Departmental system.
Five time-bound promotions on par with Gr.A Officers
The system of time bound promotions twice in a career was first introduced in CPWD Department for engineers, then in the P&T, and also for the Drivers. The Confederation pleaded before the 5th CPC for a scheme of three time bound promotions in respect of all employees. The Commission recommended two Financial up-gradations in the existing hierarchy, which was implemented by the Government in 1990. The 6th CPC modified the said scheme by providing for two financial up-gradations uniformly in the Grade Pay hierarchy as opposed to promotional hierarchy. The Government of India provided for three Financial up-gradations after 10,20,30 years of service. The net result is that in most of the cases two Financial up-gradations in ACP scheme were far better than three MACPs in Grade Pay hierarchy. When, however we examined the existing scheme of promotions in the Gr. A Services, we find that they have been assured of 5 time bound promotions in their career spanning 20 to 25 years. Comparatively therefore, Gr. C employees were only getting three MACPs which are below par to two ACPs of 1999. The employees have therefore right to demand equal treatment of five time bound promotions which only Gr. A employees are enjoying today. We are guaranteed equality of opportunity in our
Constitution and therefore we have to get 5 time bound promotion opportunities, as is presently available to the Gr. A Officers.
Ceiling on Bonus – a mockery of Justice
The existing ceiling for entitlement of bonus is Rs. 3500. The term ceiling connotes something higher than the base. Today the base wage is in around 10 to 12 thousand. How can there be a ceiling of Rs. 3500, which is obviously at the lower altitude than the base? It can never be called a ceiling. As a matter of fact, the so called ceiling has become the base of the underground and the basic salary the base at ground level. We therefore demand that this concept of ceiling may be scrapped. Bonus should be paid on the basis of the wages itself. And if at all ceiling is to be prescribed it should at the higher rate than the average pay which is now being paid.
Lofty ideals of JCM gone to wind
Joint Consultative Machinery was conceived as a grievance settlement scheme, as opposed to normal bilateral negotiations which may or may not result in settlement. It was specifically provided in the scheme that the issues raised in the JCM meeting will be concluded in the very meeting itself and not left for a later decision by the Government. It was also provided that if the issues could not be discussed fully in a meeting, it will be remitted to smaller Joint Committee, which would conclude the discussion and submit the report to next meeting in which it will be settled. These days there are items pending in the various fora of JCM for number of years . There are instances where a disagreement reached in the meeting was finally recorded after a lapse of 4 years as the Government took time to take a final decision in the matter. In other words, this JCM scheme has ceased to be an instant settlement mechanism. The frequency of meetings prescribed was minimum three meetings in a year. Meetings are now held not once in four months as prescribed, but once in three to four years. The result is that grievances of the employees have been kept pending and accumulated. The JCM scheme was a 3-tire Scheme. One at National, Second at Departmental level and Third at Office level. Since 1993 after promulgamation of Recognition of Service Association Rules, the Departmental Councils in most of the Departments stopped functioning. Even after the 6th CPC report many of these Departmental Councils have not at all been revived. Many Organizations have not at all been accorded fresh recognition since 1995. Therefore, most of the second tire Departmental Councils have ceased to exist. For these reasons we have demanded effective operation of the scheme of JCM at all the levels. The employees belonging to Gr-C and D have been given coverage under JCM in 1966. Over a period of time on account of periodic wage revision in the year1973, 1986, 1996 and 2006 the status of many of Gr-C employees has been upgraded to Gr-B employees, merely because of the higher wages and not on the basis of additional functions. The present situation is that even a post up to the level of Assistant who is educated up to graduation has no supervisory functions and is being classified as Gr-B . And all such upgraded employees have been taken out of the coverage of JCM. There cannot be therefore, any grievance settlement mechanism for all these employees. On a rough assessment only a 30% of total employees now remain under the coverage of JCM. Our demand is that all the govt. employees irrespective of classification should be given coverage in JCM. And at least those categories who are under the coverage of JCM at the time of the inception of JCM should continue to be under JCM regardless of change of the classification.
We have inherited the Struggle path
A question will arise why confederation has decided to go on direct action in support of these common demands, why they have not waited for Railways and Defence workers to join in such a call. It is our observation that over a period of time the initiatives in the direction of finalization of the Charter and direct action had always been taken in the first instance by the Confederation. In 1957 we decided to go on indefinite strike on the demand of Second Pay Commission. Railways and Defence workers did not at all join it. But we achieved this demand, because we stood firm by our decision to go on strike. Even in 1960 the campaign to go on strike, was initiated by the Confederation , JCA was constituted much later and joint action by the entirety of Central Government employees was successfully implemented the five day long strike. The same story has been repeated at the time of the 4th , 5th and 6th CPCs . Therefore, only when we go ahead on the struggle path, the leadership of Railwaymen and Defence workers gets interested and eventually joins. The other aspect of this initiation is that it has been our experience that the Governments of the day whichever formation of the party it may belong have always tended to ignore the demands of the employees. The 2nd CPC was established only when we decided to go on strike. The 4th 5th and 6th CPCs were also set up only after the Central Government employees united under the banner of JCA and gave a call of indefinite strike. Strike notices were served by holding rallies throughout the country and the Government came down to negotiation table and settled our demands. In the year 1993 Confederation and National Federation of Postal Employees had to organize six days strike to force the government to extend bonus to all non-gazetted employees, which was initially extended to only Railway employees. It is on the basis of these experiences that we have not only to decide to go on strike but also prepare ourselves for implementing this decision of the strike. Every Government employee should draw a lesson from the above experience that if he wants to settle the common demands, he has to take an individual decision to join the call given by the Organization.