New Government’s Pre-Budget Consultation Meeting With Central Trade Unions

The Finance Minister of the newly elected BJP-led NDA government held its First pre-Budget consultation meeting with representatives of central trade unions on 6th June 2014 at North Block, New Delhi. The meeting was held in connection with the forthcoming Union Budget 2014-15.

In this meeting a joint memorandum signed by 11 central trade unions was submitted with Finance Minister which consisted of their collective demands and views regarding the Budget. The representatives of following 11 CTUs took part in the meeting: BMS, INTUC, AITUC, HMS, CITU, AICCTU, AIUTUC, TUCC, SEWA, UTUC and LPF.

On behalf of AICCTU, Santosh Roy, national secretary participated in the meeting.

While speaking on the various aspects of the memorandum, he stressed upon specific demands like ‘equal pay for equal work and regularization’ of contract workers and highlighted the privatization of DTC and issues of contract workers employed here apart from uncontrolled privatization of various essential services; giving the status of worker to honorarium workers including social security; and widening the coverage of EPF. He warned the new govt. that it was the peoples’ anger and movements against UPA government’s policies of price rise, corruption and destruction of livelihood and lives that had given it mandate, and so it is hoped that it stops pursing the same policies, instead of pursuing the same policies more vigorously in the name of solving the ongoing economic crisis as has been clearly indicated in new government’s last few days’ governance.

The joint memorandum in its ‘Proposals’ for the forthcoming union budget put forward the demands of working people which, among others, are as follows:

Take effective measures to arrest the spiraling price rise and to contain inflation, Ban speculative forward trading in commodities, Universalize and strengthen the Public Distribution System, Ensure proper check on hoarding, Rationalize, with a view to reduce the burden on people, the tax/duty/cess on petroleum products; Massive public investment in the infrastructure in order to stimulate the economy for job creation, The plan & non-plan expenditure should be increased in the budget to stimulate jobs creation and guarantee consistent income to people; Minimum wage should not be less than Rs.15,000/- p.m. and linked to Consumer Price Index; FDI should not be allowed in crucial sectors like defence production, telecommunications, Railways, financial sector, retail trade, education, health and media; PSUs should be strengthened and expanded. Disinvestment of shares of profit making public sector units should be stopped forthwith. Budgetary support should be given for revival of potentially viable Sick CPSUs; The ban on recruitment in Govt. deptts., PSUs and autonomous institutions (including recent Finance Ministry’s instruction to abolish those posts not filled for one year) should be lifted as recommended by 43rd Session of Indian Labour Conference, Condition of surrender of posts in govt. departments and PSUs should be scrapped and new posts be created keeping in view the new work and increased workload; Proper allocation of funds be also made for interim relief and 7th Pay Commission; Under MGNREGA employment for minimum period of 200 days with guaranteed statutory wage be provided, as unanimously recommended by 43rd Session of Indian Labour Conference; The massive workforce engaged in ICDS, Mid-day meal scheme, Vidya volunteers, Guest Teachers, Siksha Mitra, the workers engaged in the Accredited Social Health Activities (ASHA) and other schemes be regularized, No to privatization of centrally funded schemes, Universalization of ICDS be done as per Supreme Court directions by making adequate budgetary allocations; Steps be taken for removal of all restrictive provisions based on poverty line in respect of eligibility coverage of the schemes under the Unorganised Workers Social Security Act 2008 and allocation of adequate resources for the National Fund for Unorganised Workers to provide for Social Security to all unorganized workers including the contract/casual and migrant workers in line with the recommendations of Parliamentary Standing Committee on Labour and also the 43rd Session of Indian Labour Conference; Remunerative Prices should be ensured for the agricultural produce and Govt. investment, public investment in agriculture sector must be substantially augmented as a proportion of GDP and total budgetary expenditure. It should also be ensured that benefits of the increase reach the small, marginal and medium cultivators only; Budgetary provision should be made for providing essential services including housing, public transport, sanitation, water, schools, crèche health care etc. to workers in the new emerging industrial areas, Working women’s hostels should be set up where there is a concentration of women workers; Requisite budgetary support for addressing crisis in traditional sectors like Jute, Textiles, Plantation, Handloom, Carpet and Coir etc.; Budgetary provision for elementary education should be increased, particularly in the context of the implementation of the ‘Right to Education’; Income Tax exemption ceiling for the salaried persons should be raised to Rs.5 lakh per annum and fringe benefits like housing, medical and educational facilities and running allowances should be exempted from the income tax net in totality; Provision of minimum pension of Rs.3000/- p.m., Govt. and Employers contribution be increased to allow sustainability of Employees Pension Scheme and New Pension Scheme be withdrawn and newly recruited employees of central and state govts. on or after 1.1.2004 be covered under Old Pension Scheme, Threshold limit of 20 employees in EPF Scheme be brought down to 10 as recommended by CBT-EPF, Pension benefits under EPS unilaterally withdrawn by the Govt. should be restored; Demand for Dearness Allowance merger by Central Govt. and PSUs employees be accepted and adequate allocation of fund for this be made in the budget; All interests and social security of the domestic workers to be statutorily protected on the lines of the ILO Convention on domestic workers; The Cess Management of the construction workers is the responsibility of the Finance Ministry under the Act and the several irregularities found in collection of cess be rectified as well as their proper utilization must be ensured.

In regard to ‘Resource Mobilization’, the memorandum emphasized that; a progressive taxation system should be put in place to ensure taxing the rich and the affluent sections, Increase taxes on luxury goods and reduce indirect taxes on essential commodities; Concrete steps must be taken to recover huge accumulated unpaid tax arrears which has already crossed more than Rs.5 lakh crore on direct and corporate tax account alone; Effective measures should be taken to unearth huge accumulation of black money in the economy including the huge unaccounted money in tax heavens abroad and within the country; Concrete measures be expedited for recovering the NPAs of the banking system from the willfully defaulting corporate and business houses; The rate of wealth tax, corporate tax, gift tax etc. to be expanded and enhanced; ITES, outsourcing sector, Educational Institutions and Health Services etc. run on commercial basis should be brought under Service Tax net.

The memorandum reiterated ’10 point Charter’ backed by several collective nationwide programmes including several successful general strikes and expressed its expectation that this Govt. will take initiative to discuss these issues with the Central Trade Unions in order to find a solution.

The memorandum also expressed its opposition to the so called Banking Reforms and the New Manufacturing Policy.

Lastly, the memorandum called on the govt. to arrange a post-budget meeting with trade unions also as it holds such meetings with the Corporate Associations/Employers Federations.