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Left unions dropped from PF board

New Delhi, March 17: Labour minister Sahib Singh Verma has dropped two major Left trade unions — the Centre of Indian Trade Unions (Citu) and the All India Trade Union Congress (Aituc) — from the reconstituted Central Board of Trustees of the employees’ provident fund.

Ten of the board’s members are employees’ representatives. Members of the Congress-sponsored Indian National Trade Union Congress, the BJP-backed Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh and the Hind Mazdoor Sabha continue to be part of the board.

Verma wanted all trade unions to send in a panel of three nominees to his ministry so that he could handpick the members. Till now, the practice has been for trade unions to select their representatives. Citu and Aituc refused to allow the minister to pick and choose their candidates; the rest of the unions complied.

“Citu refused to oblige the labour minister by giving up its right to choose its own representatives. And the minister dropped us from the panel out of sheer vindictiveness,” said Citu leader W.R. Varada Rajan, a former member of the board of trustees.

Earlier, not only did a trade union have the right to choose its own representative for the board, it had the right to substitute a representative.

“The labour minister did not even communicate to us on paper the decision to change the mode of selection. His personal secretary informed us on the phone,” Varada Rajan said.

The row with the Left unions, however, did not begin with their refusal to yield to the minister’s wishes regarding the board of trustees, Varada Rajan said. According to him, Citu has been having several run-ins with Verma, who functions in an “undemocratic” manner.

The Citu leader’s exclusion from the board automatically pushes him out of all sub-committees, including the finance and investment sub-committee. “This will come in handy for the labour minister who has to pass the finance ministry’s proposal of reducing the EPF interest rate from 9.5 per cent to 8 per cent,” Varada Rajan said. He apprehends that the trade union representatives who continue to be on the board might ultimately leave any “difficult” decision to the chairperson — the labour minister.

Varada Rajan believes he is being punished for scuttling several of Verma’s proposals at finance and investment committee meetings. At a meeting on December 3 last year, the Citu leader refused to back the labour minister to extend a loan to the Municipal Corporation of Delhi.

“I pointed out that according to the existing investment patterns, there is no provision for giving loans to local authorities. The minister left the meeting in a huff,” Varada Rajan said.

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