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Delhi Government’s Minimum Wage Hike ‘Not Enough’, Say Trade Unions

Trade unions have been demanding Rs 26,000 as minimum wage along with monthly cash support of Rs 7,500 to the unorganised workforce, and have called for a one day strike on November 25 to press for the same.
Minimum wages

Representational use only.

The latest hike in the minimum wage rates in the national capital won’t bring much relief to the working population since the increment “is not enough” to offset the impact of rising inflation in prices of essential commodities, trade unions believe.

They add that history has shown that any rise in the minimum wage rates for workers in the capital only remains on paper since there is “hardly any political will,” to implement them on the ground.

The minimum wages for workers in Delhi has been incremented after the Dearness Allowance (DA) – a component of the wage structure – was raised, according to an order issued by Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia on Monday. He also holds charge of the labour and employment department in Delhi.

The raising of DA is a bi-annual move. This is done so routinely in April and October by revising the rates of the Variable DA (VDA) component on the basis of the average consumer price index number for the preceding period of six months.

Accordingly, after the increase this time, the monthly salary of unskilled workers in Delhi has been increased from Rs 15,908 to Rs 16,604; while, that of semi-skilled workers from Rs 17 537 to Rs 17,693; and, that of skilled workers from Rs 19,291 to 19,473.

“The rate of minimum wages for supervisor and clerical employees has also been increased. The monthly salary of non-matriculation employees has been increased from Rs 17,537 to Rs 17,693, the monthly salary of matriculated but non-graduate employees has been increased from Rs 19,291 to Rs 19,473. The monthly salary of labourers with graduate and above educational qualification has been increased from Rs 20,976 to Rs 21,184,” the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government said in a statement.

The recent hike in the DA is, however, nothing but an “act of sprinkling salt on the wounds of the workers,” said Anurag Saxena, general secretary, Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU) – Delhi unit. According to him, the increase won’t provide any relief to the workers mostly due to “increasing instances of retrenchments, and skyrocketing price rise,” of essential commodities.

“Showing Rs 156 increase in DA as a relief to the workers is nothing but a cruel joke. Prices of most of the items of daily use have increased by 40-50% – while those of some other items [have been] doubled. In such a situation what relief can a less than 1% increase in DA provide?” Saxena said.

He added that given the blow of the COVID-19 pandemic, trade unions in Delhi have been demanding Rs 26,000 as minimum wage along with monthly cash support of Rs 7,500 to the unorganised workforce. Central trade unions have also given a call to stage a one-day city-wide strike in the national capital on November 25 to press for the same.

“One of the main demands of this strike is also the formation of a Wage Revision Board – which is mandated every 5 years as per the law – so that new minimum wages may be formulated keeping the current market prices in consideration,” Saxena said.

However, increasing the minimum wage rates is also not enough until enough mechanism is available with the government to implement them on the ground, said Narayan Singh, state secretary, Hind Mazdoor Sabha (HMS).

“The Delhi government does increase the minimum wage rates but the fact of the matter is that most of the Delhi’s workforce is currently employed on monthly payments that are below minimum wages. In such a scenario, the pressing issue is how the government is thinking to implement the increased wage rates. We don’t think there is hardly any political will to do so,” Singh said.

To be sure, in 2018, the AAP government did notify an amendment to the Minimum Wages (Delhi) Act to enforce stringent penalties in case of denial of minimum wages to workers. Accordingly, employers who failed to pay the minimum wage to their workers were to face a fine of up to Rs 50,000 as well as a three-year prison term.

But, even that hasn’t been implemented as the ground reality shows, according to Singh. “There are not enough inspections only happening, nor are there enough labour inspectors,” he lamented.

He added that the CTUs through their strike on November 25 will press the AAP government to start working in this direction too.

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