Saturday, June 4, 2011

Recommendations of Majithia Wage Board before cabinet soon

Union Labour minister Mallikarjun Kharge today(3rd June) said that the recommendations of the Justice Majithia Wage Board will be forwarded to the cabinet "as early as possible".
Justice Majithia had submitted his report on wage-board for journalists and non-journalists in December last and the matter has been pending for cabinet approval since then.
"Our department is working on the wage-board recommendations and they will be sent to the cabinet as early as possible," Kharge told reporters.
Last week, Kharge had stated that the Labour Ministry had received replies from several departments on those recommendations.

Wage board proposal will force many newspapers to shut down: INS

The Indian Newspaper Society (INS) has warned that many newspapers will have to shut down if the recommendations of the Justice Majithia wage board report are accepted.

In a strongly worded recent representation, it said: "If the recommendations in the Report are implemented, what to say of small and medium newspaper establishments who have no capacity to pay, some of leading newspaper groups too would find it difficult to implement and would suffer heavy losses. It would not only result in their inability to pay but also result in suspension of activities."

Earlier, INS president Mr Kundan Vyas had, in a press release dated February 12, said that the report was severely flawed and utterly onesided, and if accepted by the government, would drive several newspaper establishments out of business.

The Indian Newspaper Society's recent representation has also said that the recommendations cannot withstand legal scrutiny as they are laden with major loopholes, including flaws relating to the Working Journalists and Other Newspaper Employees (Conditions of Service) and Miscellaneous Provisions Act, 1955, and has therefore asked for the report to be rejected.

It has also called for the abolition of the wage boards altogether on constitutional grounds, since there is no wage board (statutory/nonstatutory) for any other industry or any other media — TV, Radio, Internet, etc—and only the print industry has been singled out. "This is discriminatory, prejudicial to the print media and aimed at fettering freedoms guaranteed to the media by the Constitution," it adds.

Meanwhile, the newspaper industry-owned premier news agency, Press Trust of India (PTI), has also warned that the wage board recommendations, if they are implemented, would have far-reaching adverse implications on its future whereby its modest profit would be wiped out and it would go into the red immediately.

This is because staff costs already make up 60% of the news agency's expenses and only around 5% of the country's 7,000 dailies subscribe to it and any further hike may mean more subscribers giving up the service. The other news agency, UNI, has been unprofitable for several years and further burden would be calamitous. It would be inexplicable why the government would want both Indian news agencies to become unviable.

The Justice Majithia wage board recommendations were submitted to Union labour ministry on December 31, last year and the Union government is yet to take a view on the recommendations.

The INS has pointed out that the National Commission on Labour headed by former Labour minister, Ravindra Verma, had in its 2002 recommendations said that there is no need for any wage board, statutory or otherwise, for fixing the wage rate for workers in any industry.

INS is of the firm opinion that in light of this recommendation, no wage boards should be constituted, including those for journalist and non-journalist employees in newspaper establishments. "As virtually no other industry has wage boards, there is no rationale for persisting with such boards for the print media. The government was wrong to have appointed wage boards," the society adds.

INS is the apex body of small, medium and large newspapers and magazines across all languages and represents 441 small, 315 medium and 261 large members, making up a total of 1017 members.

The INS's detailed representation says that the wages in the print media industry are already very high as compared to other industries and any further increase would cripple the industry, hamper the growth and many would face closure. Newspaper employees had already been granted 30% interim relief/ wages w.e.f. January 8, 2008, and the Justice Majithia wage boards have recommended another more than 100% increase.

The INS has also pointed out legal infirmities, saying that the wage boards were improperly constituted, that the report was prepared in breach of several rules and timetested procedures and that it had several recommendations which are beyond the statute and terms of reference and scope.

Charging that report cannot withstand judicial scrutiny, it says these include: Not studying a crosssection of the industry for determining capacity to pay; not considering data on prevailing rates of wages in comparable employment and aligning wages in a private industry with government employment; not computing gross profit or other suitable measure to quantify capacity to pay; not working out additional burden on the industry caused by the proposals by publishing tentative proposals, etc.

The newspaper association has also objected strongly to the wage board report being submitted without prior consultation with members, adding that contrary to laid down procedure, no meeting of the boards was ever convened to discuss the core issues after oral hearings were concluded.

It adds that the report was drafted by the chairman and the secretariat and forwarded to members who were not given sufficient time to study and comment.

Hence, INS has charged that the report cannot thus be termed as a report of the boards as it never discussed the issues nor gave any directions. It has hence submitted that the report should be rejected as the Majithia wage board has performed an inadequate job and the report is defective in major respects. 

Journalists distressed by attempt to sabotage Wage Boards

Expressing distress over an article published in a leading newspaper penned by its chief executive officer(CEO), Confederation of Newspaper and News Agency Employees' Organisations today described it " a blatant attempt to sabotage the wage revision process initiated by the government that is nearing completion".

Rebutting the CEO's contention that the governmment has been controlling journalists through Wage Boards all these decades, the Confederation asked if newspaper owners' Indian Newspaper Society(INS) is allowing itself to be controlled by government whenever it approached it for a slew of concessions, including reduction in Custom duty on newsprint or allocation of newsprint or for seeking permits to import printing equipments.

The Confederation also rebutted the CEO's claim that "high wages" recommended by the Majithia Wage Boards in newspaper industry would lead to closure of many newspapers. It said the number of daily newspapers in the country went up to 11,752 in 2008-09 from 8,675 in 2006-07. Small newspapers grew from 6,508 to 8,873, medium from 1,797 to 2,445 and big from 370 to 434.

It said; "There is no record of a single newspaper being closed because it could not pay board-declared wages". Out of 73,158 news publications, only 12 newspapers shut in 2008-09 for reasons, including family feuds.

On the other hand, the Majithia Wage Boards recorded that newspaper industry grew by 7.27 per cent per year between 1998-99 and 2007-08 when wages recommended by the previous Manisana Wage Board were legally enforceable.

The gross value of newspapers in this 10-year period rose from Rs 36,625.2 crore to Rs 68,853.2 crore, the Confederation said in a statement and asked "how can this be a setback for the industry?".

The journalists body reminded the CEO that Times of India Group's revenue increased from Rs 785 crore to Rs 3,540 crore between 1995-98 and 2006-09(blocks of three-year average).

Pointing out that 16 big newspapers get 75 per cent of their advertisement income from government sources, the Confederation asked if it means these are influenced by the government.

The Confederation, after a meeting, said it would oppose any attempt to sabotage Wage Boards for journalists and non-journalists and deny workers the new wages that are coming after 12 years. It warned of "industrial action" if attempts to sabotage persisted.

Source : PTI, UNI and Times of India 

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