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Bare minimum pay is the order of the day for many

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KEPT IN THE DARK: Cooks engaged in preparing meals at a hotel in the city. Photo: G. Moorthy
KEPT IN THE DARK: Cooks engaged in preparing meals at a hotel in the city. Photo: G. Moorthy

Mohamed Imranullah S.

Benefits of legislation yet to reach labourers slogging in many firms

MADURAI: More than half a century has passed since the Central Government enacted the Minimum Wages Act, 1948. Still, benefits of the legislation are yet to reach labourers, who belong to both skilled and unskilled categories.

After toiling for hours together in their workplace, most of these hirelings return home with a paltry sum, which is insufficient even for a hand-to-mouth existence. Illiteracy, lack of knowledge of their legal entitlement and the fear of losing their job on insisting a fair pay are some of the factors behind the apathy.

Revised last year

The State Government, exercising its powers under the Central Act, revised the minimum wages for employees in hotels and restaurants, security agencies and gunny industries among a few others, late last year.

It was made clear that the head cook, sweet and savoury maker, `Biriyani' master and 11 others falling under Grade-I staff should be paid a minimum of Rs. 2,420 a month in Municipal Corporations, Rs.2,394 in Municipalities and Rs.2,360 in other areas. The Grade-II staff, comprising assistant cook, baker and pantry in-charge besides a few others, are entitled to a minimum wage of Rs.2,380 in Corporations, Rs.2334 in Municipalities and Rs.2,300 in other places.

Employees such as electricians, plumbers, driver, `parotta' maker etc., are categorised as Grade III staff and waiters, bearers, vegetable cutters as Grade IV staff. Room attendants, `masalchi,' lift operators and eight others are included in Grade-V and separate wages are fixed for each of the grades.

If free food and breakfast are not provided to these employees, they shall be paid extra, at the rate Rs.24.30 a day and the employer should also grant dearness allowance to all employees. Despite such clear-cut directions, complaints of not adhering to specifications are the order of the day.

Similarly, many security agencies have been paying their staff below the stipulated level. Though the Government has fixed a minimum of Rs.3,729 a month for an Assistant Security Officer working in a Municipal Corporation, an ASO of a reputed company here said he was paid only Rs.2,600 a month, including all other perks.

When contacted, the Inspector of Labour, V. Ayyanar, said his department was aware of violations, and they were regularly conducting surprise inspections at many establishments to ensure fair pay to employees. "We file claim petitions on behalf of employees before the Deputy Commissioner of Labour and necessary directions are issued to employers," he said.

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