The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Pressure on industry not to slash bonus

Calcutta, Sept. 24: Practising what you preach sounds fine, except when it comes to doing it. While the state government has slashed the Puja bonus for its staff by half this year, citing “financial constraints,” it has told the private sector not to cut bonus, slowdown or no slowdown.

The labour department has issued a notification to all the chambers of commerce and industry associations “to see that the rate of bonus payable this year is not lower than that last year”.

The directive to pay “between 8.33 and 20 per cent” of the workmen’s annual wages as bonus or festival advance comes despite repeated requests from the private sector to reconsider the stipulation.

“At the state labour advisory committee meeting on September 9, we requested minister Md. Amin to review the decision of maintaining last year’s practice in view of the economic slowdown. We gave the proposal of payment as per the Bonus Act 1965, which is linked to availability of surplus with the individual companies,” said a chamber representative who attended the meeting.

But state labour minister Md. Amin stood his ground. “How can we ascertain the economic downturn and its impact on individual companies' So, we have decided to carry on with the past practice and issued a notification to the private entities in this regard.”

But the government’s “apathy” has irked the various employers’ associations and the chambers of commerce. “This is nothing but double standards. The government can reduce bonus and get the State Co-ordination Committee to support the decision. But business and industry isn’t being allowed to tide over a much graver financial crisis,” added the chamber representative.

“This will lead to a fresh round of problems at the factory level,” warned an industrial relations expert. “While there is some scope for negotiation with unions, but once a government notification is issued, it’s very difficult to convince the union leaders to accept a cut in the bonus amount.”

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