Wage Board: Why Not For All Journalists & Non-Journalists In Media Industry?

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Neeraj BhushanI am wondering as to why The Indian Newspaper Society or the INS is publishing advertisements in newspapers, against the wage board for journalist & non-journalist employees! I am shocked to see the humiliating language that these advertisements contain, saying: “If this is implemented, a peon may receive upto Rs.45,000 a month and a driver may get upto Rs.50,000”.

Is it right to identify your employees as such, irrespective of their designations? Naming your employees who put a lot of blood, sweat and tears into their work in this manner is like openly insulting them without any fault. I protest this malicious attempt by the newspaper owners. I also condemn the such false, provocative, baseless and misleading campaign by those who have the capacity to buy space and publish anything they desire. Not only should they immediately withdraw this series, an apology to this effect may then be published.

But then, I am also wondering as to why those claiming to be the representatives of journalist & non-journalist employees on the wage board are not reacting to this daily dose of demeaning advertisements? But could they really oppose their masters with whom they are pally-pally otherwise! Moreover, I found a representation from employees’ side only that read: “Majority of the Sub-Staffs or Class IV staffs in PTI are getting a salary of Rs.20,000 or more. Majority of the Sub-Staffs are not even matriculate but they are getting a salary of Rs.20,000 or more ..” Quite shameful.

What should I say then — As you sow, so you reap! Accha tell me, do you know who are the representatives of journalist & non-journalist employees in the wage board! What do they do! Who had authorised them to represent us? What is their locus standi? How many journalists and non-journalists they actually represent? O my God, even the wage board website is silent about them and their activities.

Former Supreme Court Judge Justice G.R.Majhithia had submitted his wage board report to the government on December 31, 2010, recommending a modest rise in salary and benefits for workers of the newspaper industry, to which the INS had reacted sharply. But Justice Majithia had said that a fine, fair and judicious balance had been achieved between the expectations and aspirations of the employees and the capacity and willingness of the employers to pay.

Now we are given to understand that the recommendations of the Majithia wage board have gone to the Supreme Court. But no one seems to be concerned as to who will be actually benefiting if this wage board report were to be implemented. Could we ensure implementation of earlier wage boards that were notified by the government from time to time? I want that the benefits — which are actually too little too late — must be passed on to all the journalist & non-journalist workers of the entire media industry; and not just the selected few of the print industry only. And before that, confirm the services of contract workers so that they could be brought at par and put in the fitting scale under the wage board.

There shouldn’t be untouchables, as I know there are hundreds of thousands of stringers and part-timers across the country who do not have any proper designations even. Further, their names do not figure in their company’s muster roll and they are paid just few hundred rupees… yes, not even $10. My heart goes out to them and their family.

India’s Labour Minister M Mallikarjun Kharge says wage board recommendations have been sent to the Prime Minister’s Office which would put them up before the government for implementation. But his role is also limited to be one of a facilitator only, as he himself says that the whole exercise is a tripartite kind of an arrangement among trade unions, employers and the government. “Government’s role here is one of a facilitator”.

Some so-called representatives from the workers’ side though say they will hold sit-ins and protest the delay in notification of wage boards. But their rhetoric seems more like salvaging their self-exalted positions. Many of them have no connection with the workers now, some do not have any standing whatsoever. Still they are basking in the Delhi summer.

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BACKGROUND: The Ministry of Labour & Employment vide Notifications No. S.O. 809(E) and 810 (E) dated 24th May 2007 as well as Notifications No. S.O. 1066 (E) and 1067(E) dated 3.7.2007 had constituted two separate statutory Wage Boards – one for Working Journalists and another for other Newspaper Employees – in exercise of the powers conferred by Section 9 of the Working Journalists and other Newspaper Employees (Conditions of Service) and Miscellaneous Provisions Act, 1955 (45 of 1955) under the Chairmanship of Dr. Justice K. Narayana Kurup, formerly Judge, High Court of Kerala and Acting Chief Justice, High Court of Madras for the purpose of fixing and revising rates of wages in respect of Working Journalists and Other Newspaper Employees, respectively.

Consequent upon resignation of Dr. Justice K. Narayana Kurup, the Government of India then appointed Justice G.R. Majithia as Chairman of Wage boards vide Notification nos. S.O. 580(E) and S.O. 581 (E) dated 28th February 2009. The Wage Boards are tripartite in character in which representative of workers, employers, independent members participate and finalize the recommendation. The Wage Boards for journalists and non – journalist newspaper and news-agency employees are statutory in nature. The prime responsibility for implementing the recommendations of the Wage Board rests with the concerned State Governments / Union Territories under the provision of the act.

कई बड़े मीडिया हाउसों में विभिन्न पदों पर काम कर चुके नीरज भूषण इन दिनों स्वतंत्र पत्रकार और वेब जर्नलिस्ट के रूप में सक्रिय हैं. उनका यह लिखा उनकी वेबसाइट नीरजभूषण डाट काम से साभार लेकर यहां प्रकाशित किया गया है.


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