Trade unions seek hike in budget allocation for MGNREGA, higher tax on corporates

New Delhi (IANS) Trade unions have urged Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman to take measures in the forthcoming Union budget so that the economy can be revitalised. In a letter to her, 10 major unions have sought an increased budget allocation for MGNREGA and giving workers under the scheme’s ambit, the status of government employees and paying them minimum wages.

They have also asked her to increase taxes on corporates and introduce wealth tax.

The unions, namely INTUC, AITUC, Hindustan Mazdoor Sabha, Self Employed Women’s Association (SEWA), CITU and Labour Progressive Federation (LPF) among others, in the letter to the Finance Minister dated November 26, have also asked the government to give up plans to sell public sector enterprises, shelve the electricity amendment bill 2022 and reduce GST burden on common people, especially on fuel and essential commodities.

The unions are scheduled to participate in the pre-budget consultations with the Finance Minister on Monday. However, the trade unions informed Sitharaman through a letter that they would boycott the meeting, if it is not held in physical mode. They also termed giving each union a maximum of 3 minutes to give their representations during the meeting, as a “cheap joke”.

The issues put forth by them in the letter cited above, are scheduled to be raised during Monday’s meeting.

Meanwhile, they have also urged the Finance Minister to scrap all policies of privatisation like the National Monetisation Pipeline, the new education policy and Electricity (Amendment) Bill, 2022 among others, as these are bound to increase prices of the services they offer and further fuel inflation.

“Forcing coal consumers to buy Adani coal, even at higher prices, is the height of crony capitalism. Scrap all these policies,” the unions said in the letter.

They have also sought restoration of the old pension scheme in place of NPS by contribution out of Government kitty.

“Schemes like PM Shram Yogi Mandhan Yojana, which make low paid unorganised sector workers contribute for a minimum of 20 years, are being touted as ‘social security’. Please scrap such Yojanas, the contributions of which you are using for market investments”.

Flagging the issue of unemployment, they said that “this issue is assuming alarming proportions. But it is being used as an opportunity by the establishments under the Government as well as the Government itself. Keeping posts vacant, employing workers under contract, fixed term employment, or doing away with their services altogether, is becoming a new normal. Though the employers have demanded ’employment generation incentives’ in your interaction with them, they prefer automation to reduce manpower, rather than any incentive”.

The unions have also slammed the Agnipath Scheme, saying that “it not only deprives the youth willing to serve in the defence services of our country of social security but also undermines our national security. The much advertised ’employment melas’ are just an eyewash”.

“The employees of General Insurance Companies have been agitating for a long time for their LTS having been delayed even beyond the duration of the last LTS and for being let down when they were assured wage rise parity with LIC employees. Further, they are saddled with KPI, without any bipartite consultations with their unions. This needs to be corrected. Employees of all other PSUs sold for a song, have been left high and dry with sudden termination of their earlier service conditions. (Air India, Pawan Hans etc),” the unions informed the Finance Minister further, in the letter.

The much touted LIC IPO, they said, is also against the interests of the insured common people, besides being anti-LIC, as with the sale of LIC shares, priority would be to pay dividend to shareholders rather than bonus to the insured people, as was being done so far.

“Last but not the least, guarantee MSP to the farmers, who were promised it, when the farm laws were withdrawn. This will also reduce the number of youth
migrating to urban centres, as farming becomes uneconomical without the MSP. MSP covering all crops as per Swaminathan Committee recommendations (C2+50
procurement should be ensured,” they further urged Sitharaman in the letter.

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