Vol. XLIII No. 14 April 07, 2019
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DELHI: Workers Get Pay Hike from Nov 1, Min Wage Set at Rs 14,000

Anurag Saxena

THE Supreme Court, on October 31, issued an interim order benefitting lakhs of workers in the unorganised sector in Delhi. As per the order, effective from November 1, 2018, the minimum wage of unskilled workers in Delhi is set at Rs 14,000 per month, a jump of 40 per cent, subject to final judgement.

The interim order was issued against the judgement of Delhi High Court which had rejected the Delhi government notification on minimum wages dated March 3, 2017. The Delhi government in turn, through its labour commissioner, filed a special leave petition against this judgement of the Delhi High Court.  

The struggle over the revision of minimum wage began in April 2016 when the Delhi government, after much delay, had constituted an advisory board. At the behest of the employers and BJP-lead central government, the then lieutenant governor of Delhi had rejected the advisory board on the grounds that no prior permission was obtained from him. Later, with the permission of the lieutenant governor, the advisory board was constituted again in September, 2016. CITU state general secretary Anurag Saxena was a member in the advisory board on behalf of the employees.

On the basis of the advisory board’s recommendations, the Delhi government finally issued the notification on minimum wages on March 3, 2017. It was for the first time that the advisory board decided the minimum wages on the basis of 15th Indian Labour Conference (ILC) recommendations and Supreme Court judgement on it in the Raptakos Brett case of 1992.

The employers in Delhi, however, refused to implement the notified minimum wages and conspired to sabotage it. They, with the support of the BJP at the centre, filed several petitions before the High Court.

The CITU Delhi state committee, had hit back by organising various protests and galvanised all trade unions to go for a one-day strike on July 20, 2018 demanding the implementation of the notification on minimum wages of March 3, 2017. The CITU remained in the forefront of the movement in Delhi for the implementation of the notified minimum wages.  

Meanwhile, the employers’ refusal to implement the minimum wage notification severely affected the economic interest of millions of workers in the capital. The High Court order demoralised the workers in general and the trade union activists in particular, as they struggled for more than two years for the wage hike.

Given this background, the Supreme Court interim order of October 31, has brought relief to millions of workers in Delhi. Chief Justice of India, Rajan Gogoi, had called this case file before the main bench of the Supreme Court and played a crucial role. The interim order of the apex court turned down the judgement of the Delhi High Court and restored the minimum wages notification of March 3, 2017 temporarily. It ordered for the implementation of the notified minimum wages effective from  November 1, 2018 till the disposal of the case.

The Supreme Court also directed the Delhi government to constitute a Minimum Wage Advisory Board strictly under the provision of the Act and on its advice, prepare a fresh draft of minimum wages and place it before the Supreme Court within three months for scrutiny and approval. The Supreme Court also allowed CITU state committee, through its president Virendra Gaur to become an intervener party in this case.  

It is important to note that the Seventh Central Pay Commission (CPC) for the central government employees also calculated the minimum wage on the basis of the 15th ILC recommendations and the Supreme Court judgement on it.  It is also important to note that one of the major demands of the workers’ national general strike on January 8-9, 2019 is making Rs 18,000 as the minimum wage from January 1, 2016, as recommended by the Seventh CPC. Therefore, the struggle to defend this notification on minimum wages became very important for the working class movement.

The implementation of the minimum wages notified by the Delhi government, now has the force of Supreme Court’s order and contempt of court in case of non-implementation.