While the pandemic has meant job loss for lakhs of workers, even those who have managed to retain their jobs in the organised sector have seen their annual increments being negotiated harder or getting protracted/stuck.
“Most industries have been asking for special consideration, and the general tendency has been to seek a waiver on annual increments,” All India Trade Union Congress general secretary M.D. Harigovind told The Hindu. “Workers have lost wages and healthcare cost has gone up. The labour share in the employee cost has not gone up significantly,” he added. Mr. Harigovind said several industries in the automotive, engineering, and tool sectors have, in fact, benefited from the lockdown in Europe. “These sectors do not qualify for wage cuts. We are also aware that industries in some other sectors have been affected badly,” he said.
Acknowledging the delay in wage negotiations, Bengaluru Employers’ Association president B.C. Prabhakar said negotiations were being completed wherever possible. “Negotiations are happening based on the macro-economic parameters. In some cases, physical meeting is not possible and in some cases, industries are waiting and watching,” he said. “In certain industries, the managements are looking at surviving first.”
Both industrial bodies and the trade unions acknowledge that the wages in some industries have, on an average, seen an increase of between ₹9,000 and ₹18,000 over a period of three years in large and medium industries. The hike is besides the Dearness Allowance increase. These were numbers arrived at after protracted negotiations. Mr. Prabhakar said the increase in DA was not being held back.
Centre of Indian Trade Unions general secretary Meenakshi Sundaram said that several industries have informed workers that increments cannot be paid. “Even the lockdown wages are not being given. Industries are using this opportunity to reduce the labour cost, which is unfair,” he said. He added that workers too have made compromises in order to survive on a long term, given the current scenario.
Mr. Sundaram said the cost per employee calculation is skewed since the ratio between permanent employee and contract employee has changed. “If you have 40% permanent employees, the rest are contract employees and their salaries differ greatly,” he pointed out.