June 30, 2024

CTUs Write to FM on Upcoming Budget

The central trade unions – INTUC, AITUC, HMS, CITU, AIUTUC, TUCC, SEWA, AICCTU, LPF, UTUC, and various sectoral federations and associations have jointly addressed a letter to the minister of finance, Government of India, on June 24, outlining their viewpoints on the issues to be considered for framing the budget for the year 2024-2025. Below we publish the text of the letter.

WE, the representatives of the wealth creators, the working class of the country, are participating in these pre-budget consultations only out of our confidence in the democracy and constitution of the country. We are compelled to state this, as not a single suggestion by the trade unions was considered while preparing the budget or any policy of your previous governments.

It has been nearly a decade since the highest tripartite forum, the Indian Labour Conference (ILC), was called under the NDA governments. You may recall that the main recommendation of the one and only ILC held under the NDA government was to implement the recommendations of earlier ILCs, which again has fallen on deaf ears.

Not only are our suggestions and demands ignored, but your governments have also been implementing policies diametrically opposite to those, bypassing all tripartite bipartite democratic mechanisms and institutions. The latest example is the notification published by the ministry of labour and employment, drastically reducing the rates of penalty levied against defaulting employers in EPF. This has been done keeping the Central Board of Trustees of EPFO in the dark and without any consultation with the unions whatsoever.

We hope that the new NDA government will learn from experience where such policies have only helped a few corporates and led to huge disparities, alarming levels of unemployment, hunger, and malnutrition, as evident from the world hunger index.

Considering the larger interest of the people and the grave situation faced by the economy, we expect you to take measures to increase the purchasing power of the people.

The CTUs put forward these concrete suggestions for the Budget 2024-2025:

  1. Resource Mobilisation: Increase corporate tax, wealth tax, and introduce inheritance tax instead of burdening common masses with GST on essential food items and medicine. Over the decades, corporate tax rates have been unjustly slashed while increasing the indirect tax burden on common people, resulting in an utterly regressive tax structure. Correct this in the interests of fairness, equity, and propriety. Even one per cent inheritance tax on the super-rich can fetch huge amounts for budget receipts and finance education, health, and other social sectors. Hence, GST on essential food items and medicine must be drastically reduced.
  2. Income Tax Rebate for Salaried Class: Substantially raise the ceiling limit for the income tax rebate for the salaried class on their salary and gratuity.
  3. Social Security Fund: Set up a Union Government-sponsored social security fund for unorganised workers and agricultural workers to provide them with defined universal social security schemes, including a minimum pension of Rs 9000 per month and other medical, educational benefits. Implement special schemes to ensure occupational health and safety measures for workers, especially in vulnerable trades like waste recyclers, salt pan workers, and glass bangle makers. Ensure compensation for income/wage loss during lean seasons and natural calamities, and set up climate resilience funds to cover workers' losses due to these events, especially in the context of climate change. Enroll all unorganised workers on the e-Shram portal and extend these schemes to them. Raise monetary benefits under current schemes as they are inadequate and provide the necessary fund to compensate for the repeal of the Beedi Cess Act promised during the GST rollout. Extend ESI coverage to workers in the unorganised sector. Include small farmers/agricultural workers/sharecroppers under the Kisan Sanmaan Yojana and Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana. Allocate the budget to ensure technical coherence and interstate management mechanisms for ration card and identity card portability, enabling migrant workers to access social security benefits at their source and destinations.
  4. Job Creation: Fill all existing vacancies in central government departments and PSUs immediately. Stop the practice of contract and outsourcing, ensuring regular employment. Ensure equal pay for equal work. Replace fixed-term employment schemes like Agniveer, Ayudveer, Koylaveer with regular employment in all areas. Replace the government-funded apprenticeship scheme benefiting private employers in the name of skill India with a statutory obligation for private employers to engage a requisite number of apprentices in their establishments, with a clear provision for phased placement in regular employment. Increase MNREGS allocation to ensure 200 days of work with statutory minimum wages and extend the scheme to urban areas, as recommended unanimously in the 43rd ILC. Ensure immediate payment of all pending wages. Allocate adequately for conducting surveys and issuing vending licenses under the Street Vendors (Protection of Livelihood and Regulation of Street Vending) Act 2014, and ensure climate-resilient markets.
  5. NPS: Scrap the New Pension Scheme and restore the benefit-defined old pension scheme.
  6. 8th Pay Commission: Constitute the 8th Pay Commission immediately.
  7. Labour Codes: Repeal all four Labour Codes that were enacted by repealing 29 labour statutes, and restore the said 29 labour statutes. Set a minimum wage of not less than Rs 26,000 per month with indexation, in line with the consensus recommendation of the Indian Labour Conference. Call the ILC immediately, as per the requisite of ILO convention 144.
  8. Privatisation of PSUs: Stop the privatisation of PSUs and the National Monetisation Pipeline process. Stop the privatisation in different production and service areas in railways, the defense sector by forming companies and merging them, coal and auctioning coal blocks, ports and docks, power generation and transmission, and other areas. Halt the move to sell off BSNL and RINL assets and stop the privatisation of RINL (Visakhapatnam Steel Plant). Strengthen all public sector units. Stop the privatisation of electricity and withdraw the Electricity Bill. Scrap the Smart Pre-paid Electricity Meter Scheme. Stop privatising the door-to-door waste collection system, ensuring employment to traditional waste recyclers and upgrading their technology and skills.
  9. Public Sector Banks and Insurance Sector: Stop the loot and plunder of public sector banks and the privatisation of the insurance sector. Discontinue corporate loan waivers in the form of write-offs, Insolvency Bankruptcy Code routes, Production Linked Incentive, and Capital investment incentive as they do not result in regular employment generation.
  10. LIC and GIC: Halt the move to privatise LIC and GIC through various means like LIC-IPO in the larger interest of the common people and the nation.
  11. Social Sector: Stop the privatisation of social and service sectors like food/nutrition, health, and education. Increase allocation for basic services in health and education. Allocate adequately for drinking water, sanitation, housing, and other essential services. Increase the budget allocation for SC/ST Sub plans and gender budgeting. Reinstate concessions for senior citizens and differently-abled individuals in the railways.
  12. Price Rise: Contain the rise in prices of petroleum products induced by increased duties and essential services with concrete ameliorative measures. Curb speculative forward trading and hoarding of food items and strengthen the universal public distribution system to contain price rise.
  13. Scheme Workers: Regularise scheme workers like Anganwadi, Mid-Day-Meal, ASHA workers, block facilitators, para teachers, and others as workers with attendant rights of increased statutory minimum wage, social security, and other benefits, including pension, in accordance with the consensus recommendation of the ILC. Increase allocations for all central schemes providing basic services like ICDS, MDMS, and NHM. Strengthen schemes to ensure quality services of nutrition, health, education, and child care services to all, especially unorganised sector workers.
  14. EPF: Rescind recent gazette notifications reducing penal charges on defaulting employers in remitting contributions to PF, EPS, and EDLI schemes. Ensure a minimum pension of Rs 9000 and above under EPS. Increase coverage to include all workers. Rectify discriminatory representation in the board of trustees of EPFO immediately.
  15. ESIC: Strengthen ESIC services to ensure quality services with coverage of all work areas and enhanced coverage limits.
  16. MSP: Ensure statutory Minimum Support Price (MSP) for all farm produce as per the recommendations of the Dr M S Swaminathan Commission with guaranteed procurement.