The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Centre lines up minimum wage hike

New Delhi, Sept. 18: The Centre is all set to increase the national minimum wage to Rs 70 a day from Rs 50 to remove disparity across the country.

A consensus to this effect emerged today at a conference of labour and health ministers of states, presided over by Union labour minister Sahib Singh Verma.

The proposal, which, once effected, would benefit daily-wage earners, will now be examined by the central advisory committee on minimum wages. Verma expressed confidence it would approve the hike. It would also separately consider the plight of beedi and agriculture workers.

The wage disparity had not only affected the less privileged but also states with higher wages as employers tended to set up establishments in the low-wage states to save money.

The proposed amendments to the Contract Labour (Abolition) Act and a planned sub-section to allow contract labour in 13 jobs, however, could run into criticism from labour unions.

The chosen jobs include sweeping, cleaning, loading and unloading, security services, canteen services, housekeeping and laundry services, transport and courier, construction and maintenance of buildings, roads and bridges, and IT and related services.

While some ministers proposed raising the minimum wage to Rs 66 a day for 2002-03 — on the basis of the National Sample Survey Organisation’s consumer expenditure survey, 1999-2000 — others plumped for Rs 70.

The national floor level minimum wage is revised periodically on the basis of increase in consumer price index for industrial workers. It was last revised to Rs 50 in September 2002. But some states continued to pay less.

“The objective is to safeguard the interests of the workers engaged in all employments,” Verma said. The Employees State Insurance Corporation organised the day-long conference, attended by 25 ministers.

The other proposals under consideration are:

To clear statutory dues to employees of state public sector undertakings

Enhance and strengthen vocational training facilities for women and earmark 25 per cent seats for women in vocational training centres

Wage ceiling of Rs 6,500 to be raised to Rs 10,000 a month to bring more workers under ESI medical coverage

To bring units employing a minimum of 10 workers under ESI cover from the present 20

To raise upper-age limit of a dependant of a worker from 18 years to 21 to enable him or her to get ESI benefit

nMobile dispensaries to be launched to provide better medical care to ESI beneficiaries in remote and hilly areas

Elimination of child labour and launching of child labour project in 100 more districts and mainstreaming of children project schools to formal schools. Work is already underway in 100 districts across the country

Verma said he was thinking of extending the revolving fund system for specialty and super-specialty treatment in ESI hospitals to buying drugs and dressings and maintaining equipment.

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