The Life of Labour: Kerala HC Stalls Minimum Wage Notification

Latest news updates from the world of work.

Kerala high court stalls minimum wage notification for nurses and hospital staff

The Kerala high court has ordered a stay on a notification of a revised minimum wage for nurses and other hospital staff. The Kerala government had agreed to a revision of minimum wage for the nurses after a prolonged struggle. Last year, an expert committee appointed to look into the matter had recommended an upward revision of the minimum wage to Rs. 20,000. The nurses in the private sector have been demanding that the minimum wage for the sector be the same as that for public sector nurses. Yet, merely days before the minimum wage was to be notified, the private hospital association has won a stay against its notification.

Health sector workers in India have been getting a raw deal over many years. While most of the new recruits into the public health system have been incorporated under various schemes rather than as permanent employees, the private health sector which has been booming in the past decade has also offered very poor wage packages for the nurses and hospital staff. Some of these struggles have also gained media attention. The Kerala high court verdict comes as a significant setback to these struggles and to the lives of those who provide essential health care.

TNSTC workers protest the proposed amendments to Motor Vehicles Act

Various transport sector unions, as well as associations of lorry owners, two-wheeler mechanics and driving school owners, participated in a demonstration in Chennai on March 13, 2018, against the Motor Vehicles Amendment Act. Auto drivers from Chennai and state transport workers from throughout the state participated in large numbers. The protest, organised by the Transport Workers Unions Committee, ended with the government agreeing to meet the leadership. A memorandum urging the Government to oppose the amendment bill was submitted to Transport Minister Vijay Bhaskar who has assured that they will oppose the bill. This protest is part of a nation-wide campaign that was proposed at a national convention held in New Delhi on February 15 this year.

Counting jobs in India: A detailed review of the labour database

Jitender Singh of the Ministry of Finance and Arup Mitra of the Institute of Economic Growth in Delhi have published a paper in the Economic and Political Weekly last week that looks at the sources of data on labour. There’s been numerous analysis recently around labour statistics so it’s essential that this sort of overview becomes available. They look at the various, often contrasting sources of information on employment and provide suggestions on how these can be streamlined and refined to get the most accurate picture possible.

Time to discuss labour reforms yet again

The NDA government, which proposed big bang reforms on the labour front, had not moved for a major restructuring of labour laws until now. They have often resorted to tweaking legislative rules or allowing states to take initiative due to the severe opposition presented by trade unions as well as opposition parties. Yet again, though, the labour department is proposing to introduce bills to amend the present labour laws with regard to industrial relations. India’s labour minister Santosh Kumar Gangwar said in an interview on Tuesday that the administration had abandoned the plan that would have allowed companies with as many as 300 workers to lay off staff without seeking the government’s permission, and would keep the current limit of 100. This is seen as a compromise to help pass a legislation that would otherwise restrain workers from forming a union or organising strikes in their efforts at collective bargaining. The government hopes to present the bill by April 6 for parliamentary approval.

Also, in the Hindu Businessline, KR Shyamsundar and Rahul Sapkal write about the many problems with the proposed Wage Code. Discussing the code’s provision for different minimum wages like the national minimum wage, state minimum wages, regional/industry minimum wages, etc. The authors write that it “leaves a lot to the discretion of the administrators to determine minimum wages which are not a good legal principle as temporal or spatial differences will emerge.” The writers also pointed out that as the inspection infrastructure is underfunded and mostly defunct, the implementation of the code is going to be a challenge. They also write that “Minimum wage observance is enhanced when collective organisations of workers are involved and freedom of association is respected. But ruling dispensations seek to dismantle labour inspection and discourage freedom of association. “

Bangalore metro rail workers on strike

Bangalore metro rail workers have decided to go on strike if the BMRC, that runs the Bangalore metro, fails to recognise their union and implement wages and perks as per the recommendations of their third pay commission in line with other wages in metro rail corporation around India. While BMRC has sought a three-month period to look into their demands, the workers have drawn a red line demanding that BMRC agree to their three basic demands before the March 21. They have decided to go on strike from March 22 if this doesn’t happen. A New Indian Express report suggests that the government may impose ESMA to force the workers to break the strike.

Mumbai’s welcome to the marching farmers writes about residents in Mumbai who came out onto the streets, even at 4.30 AM, to give the marching farmers food and water.

Following this, farmers in Uttar Pradesh are now organising a one-day “Kisan Pratirodh Rally” on March 15 in Lucknow. “The Uttar Pradesh government has increased electricity tariff since 2016 and now in 7 districts electricity is being given in private hands. The electricity prices have increased so much that the cost of cultivation has started to skyrocket. In the countryside, electricity prices have gone up to 150 times in the past. Also, the government has not taken any measures to ensure MSP,” Mukut Singh, Uttar Pradesh State Secretary of AIKS, told Newsclick.

Owner and manager in the chemical factory fire accident case arrested

The police arrested four people in connection with the fire at Ramdeo Chemicals factory in the Boisar-Tarapur industrial estate in Mumbai last week. Four people died and thirteen were injured. NDTV writes, “The police said the accused had not taken proper steps for the safety of workers and did not train them properly, as a result of which while mixing the chemicals, there was an explosion in the reactor, which led to the fire.”

International news

Guangdong workers show how labour bargaining need be done

A thousand workers, nearly 70 percent of who are women, in a luxury handbag factory in Guangzhou won social insurance and housing provident fund contributions after a nine-day strike. They had called on the management to engage in collective bargaining in early March and ever since then, there were numerous attempts to disrupt their organising. Read more here.

A Thatcher moment? France’s Macron squares off with rail unions

On Wednesday, Macron’s government “endorsed a bill to fast-track through parliament the biggest shake-up of France’s debt-ridden railways since they were nationalized in the 1930s”. “It’s like putting a pistol to our heads and saying: ‘Let’s talk’,” Philippe Martinez, leader of the CGT union, told Reuters.

Weekend reading

Marx pays a visit to Foxconn

A riveting photo essay of a Foxconn factory describes Marx attending the factory disguised as a regular worker. In his commentary on this “playful thought experiment”, Victor Grant writes, “Marx’s arrival on the Foxconn factory floor gives comical expression to a sensitive question that has long haunted China: where is Marx in the largest economy still ruled in his name?”.