Minimum wage for all workers, all jobs in unorganised sector
In a fresh attempt to ensure minimum wage for all 34 crore workers in the unorganised sector, the labour ministry has proposed changes in the Minimum Wage Act to allow each job — besides those listed by the Centre and the states — to be covered by the Act.The amendment, to be introduced in the forthcoming Budget Session, proposes that every worker be paid the higher of the two — lowest wage fixed for an unskilled worker or the National Floor Level Minimum Wage — for “any employment other than that covered in the Schedule”.
At present, the Centre and states are empowered to notify any job in the Schedule only when the number of employees is 1,000 or more. There are 45 jobs identified in the Centre’s agricultural and non-agricultural lists while states have as high as 1,596.“With the proposed inclusion of ‘any other employment’ in the Schedule, the provision in Section 3 (1A) restricting addition of employment in the Schedule to 1,000 workers or more becomes infructuous. Hence, it is proposed to be deleted,” says the Cabinet proposal which has the consent of the law ministry.In September 2007, the UPA government dropped a proposal for a national minimum wage for all jobs and retained only social security provisions while introducing the Unorganised Sector Workers’ Social Security Bill.On an average, unorganised sector workers do not earn more than Rs 50 per day while the national floor of minimum wage, last revised in November, is Rs 100. There are over 34 crore workers in this sector of which around 22 crore are in the agricultural sector.
These include home-based workers, employees in household enterprises or small units, agricultural workers, labour on construction sites, domestic work, and other forms of casual or temporary employees, including teachers. While pushing for a minimum wage, the ministry has proposed uniform wage for adult, adolescent, children and apprentices as a differential wage rate provide a cover to the employer to short-change temporary workers.The wages would have to be revised every two years if a state does not provide a dearness allowance that is reviewed every six months. States which give special allowances fully linked to the consumer price index would have the freedom to fix the floor wage every five years.The proposed changes would levy heavy penalty on cheating employers. The fine is proposed to be raised to Rs 5,000 from current Rs 500 with the possibility of a six-month jail. For the second offence, fine would be up to Rs 10,000 or one year imprisonment or both. Those who violate the provisions of the Act — that is do not maintain employment register, do not provide employment card or salary slips — would be fined Rs 5,000 for the first offence and up to Rs 10,000 for subsequent contraventions.