The government of Tamil Nadu has slashed the bonus and ex-gratia for the Diwali festival to the workers of state public sector undertaking (PSUs) by 50%. As against the 20% paid since the past several years, the government has cited the pandemic and the slump in the economy as the reason for halving the bonus. But, the workers alleged that the government is citing the pandemic as an excuse, as the bonus is calculated considering the financial condition of the state, in the financial year 2019-2020.
The workers have seen their expenses increase during the pandemic, with an increase in prices of commodities as well as pay the fee for their children even during the lockdown. The different trade unions have condemned the unilateral move of the government and demanded the government to restore the 20% bonus for all workers including casual and contract workers.
‘CITING PANDEMIC IS A LAME EXCUSE’
The state PSU employees were shocked at the government announcing a massive 50% cut in the bonus. Different trade unions have demanded an increase this year, considering the steep increase in essential commodities and inflation. The Dearness Allowance (DA) revision for the government employees is also frozen till July 2021, along with the suspension of earned leave encashment.
“The reduction in the bonus for the state PSUs is unacceptable considering the fact that the payment is based on the financial year which ended in March 2020. The government has cited the pandemic as the reason for the 50% cut, which is unjustified and unacceptable. The government has used the pandemic only to justify the bonus cut,” said K Thangamohan, state secretary of Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU).
The past few years have seen the government announcing 8.33% bonus and 11.67% ex-gratia for workers of profit making PSUs, along with additional incentives of upto 2% for employees of profit making PSUs, while employees of loss making PSUs were paid 10% bonus.
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A total of 2,91,975 employees of Class C and D of different profit and loss making state PSUs are eligible for the bonus as per the notification. The total cost to be incurred by the government is estimated Rs 210.48 crore. In the previous year, the government sanctioned Rs 472.65 crore as bonus for 3.48 lakh workers.
CITU DEMANDS UNIFORM BONUS FOR ALL
Meanwhile, the CITU Tamil Nadu state committee has condemned the reduction of bonus for the employees of the PSUs and demanded the restoration of a 20% bonus, as the previous year, to all the employees.
The statement also rejected the claims of the government in citing the pandemic as the reason for the reduction in the bonus. The union said that the economy will improve only if the purchasing capacity of the consumers are increased, but the government is trying to limit the same.
Thangamohan added, "The cost of most of the essential commodities including onion, dal and rice have increased during the past several months, increasing the expenditure of the families. Cutting down the bonus, will add to their financial burden and won’t bring any joy during the festival as the government has claimed.”
The statement also condemned the government’s unilateral approach in the announcement of the bonus (or the lack thereof). The statement said, “The government is unilaterally announcing the bonus for the past nine years, without holding talks with the trade unions.”
The trade unions have also opposed the classification of PSUs as profit and loss making for the calculation of bonus disbursal in the recent years. The sectors including transport, consumer goods supply, civil supplies corporation are meant to extend service to the people rather than making profit, the statement added.
TRANSPORT WORKERS DEMAND 25% BONUS
The All India Trade Union Congress (AITUC) has written to the transport minister demanding a 25% bonus and festival advance of Rs 10,000. The AITUC has also demanded the disbursal of bonus to all the casual and contract workers who have worked for more than 30 days.
The workers of the Tamil Nadu State Transport Corporation (TNSTC) held flash protests in front of all transport depots today, condemning the drastic cut in the bonus. The workers of all trade unions took part in the protest and flayed the government for the unjust reduction.
The nine trade unions in the state transport department have announced a mass gherao protest in all the regional offices of the transport corporation on October 9, demanding a 20% bonus for the workers.
RUBBER PLANTATION WORKERS TO HOLD PROTEST
The rubber plantation workers unions expressed shock over the announcement of only 10% for the festival season. All trade unions in the sector demanded 20% along with 10% COVID-19 pandemic relief in a joint meeting on October 2.
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“We have decided to hold a protest in front of all divisional offices in Kanyakumari district on October 9 to reiterate our demands. The plantation workers were not provided any relief during the lockdown period and hence we have raised the demand for a compensation as well,” said Valsa Kumar, general secretary of Kanyakumari District Plantation Workers Union.
The trade union also alleged that the Arasu Rubber Corporation (ARC) is financially sound considering the revenue generated through slaughtering of trees which stopped yields. “The ARC has been denying to listen to the genuine and long pending demands of the plantation workers. Using the pandemic as the reason to cut down the binus severely is another way of snatching the rights of the workers,” Valsa Kumar added.