Without corresponding protective mechanisms for the workers of the unorganised sector, the Meghalaya Fifth Pay Commission is a recipe for further widening socio economic inequalities in Meghalaya. Unnoticed by many, Meghalaya Government’s ‘gift’ to 68,280 regular Govt Servants also includes plans for further contractualisation and informalisation of work in the state Government sector. The fifth pay commission has suggested outsourcing of grade 3 and grade 4 work to labour contractors.
The biased nature of the government can also be seen in the wide gap between the minimum wage and the lowest wage envisaged by the Fifth Pay Commission for regular govt. employees. As per the minimum wage rate an unskilled worker in the informal/unorganised sector is entitled to only Rs. 189/day while a regular lowest ranking unskilled govt. servant will get approx.Rs. 566 per day. This difference is further exacerbated by the lack of statutory social security mechanisms or benefits to the workers in the unorganised sector. It is therefore imperative that the Supreme Court Ruling on “Equal Pay for Equal Work” is immediately implemented in both Government and Private sectors.
Thma U Rangli Juki (TUR) which has been campaigning to organise the various categories of unorganised sector workers including contractual, ad-hoc, casual, agricultural labourers, private sector workers has found out that there is rampant flouting of constitutional obligations and labour laws in both the government (state & central) and private sectors in Meghalaya.
Some of the serious violations of labour rights in Meghalaya identified by TUR and its associate labour unions are:
1. Many state government establishments are not implementing latest rates as per the minimum wages act. Most Central Government institutions do not pay minimum wages as per Central Government rates.
2. Statutory entitlements such as Gratuity, PF, ESI, Bonus are not given to the workers or are siphoned off by the Labour Contractors.
3. Leave entitlements including CL, EL, Sick Leave and maternity benefits are denied to workers both in government and private undertakings.
4. Most establishments are not implementing Sexual Harassment Act 2013.
5. Social security in the form of creches, day care centre are grossly missing.
TUR calls on all workers to organise themselves to resist the government and private sectors attempts to undermine their rights. TUR also demands that the state Minimum Wage should be raised to match the raise proposed by the Fifth Pay Commission and should at least be raised to Rs. 560 / day for unskilled labour.
TUR demands that Contract Labour should not be used in any any work which is regular and perennial in nature.The 5th pay commissions suggestion of doing away with muster roll workers will further consolidate the ongoing corrupt and illegal practices of labour contractors trapping workers into bonded servitude and this should be reviewed.
TUR demands that the state government should use its constitutional jurisdiction to reign in illegalities perpetrated by the Labour Contractors to stop wide scale enslavement of workers in Meghalaya and explore other more secure systems of employment.
TUR urges workers in Central Government establishment to be vigilant that Central Wage rates are paid along with Equal Pay for Equal Work and other entitlements like Leave, PF, ESI, Maternity Benefit, Gratuity, Bonus etc. and that the State Reservation Policy is being adhered to.