The DMK and the CPI (M) have demanded the withdrawal of two circulars issued by the Employees’ Provident Fund Organisation (EPFO) in late December 2022 and January, on the issue of payments of higher pensions.
M. Shanmugam, DMK’s Member of Parliament (Rajya Sabha) and general secretary of the Labour Progressive Federation (LPF), told The Hindu over the phone from New Delhi that the circulars had only “created confusion” among workers as they were “drafted in haste” and they did not provide any details regarding benefits that a pensioner would get. “They have also not made it clear whether one will get a higher pension or not.”
Contending that the circulars had reflected an “antagonistic attitude” of the PF authorities towards labour welfare, Mr. Shanmugam, also the secretary of the PF Employees’ Union in Chennai, argued that the talk of recovery, as mentioned in the second circular issued in late January, appeared to send out a message to pensioners that the authorities were “out to penalise them” for having approached the courts.
The DMK MP urged the Central government to call all trade unions for a comprehensive discussion on the matter before framing any scheme for the implementation of the November 2022 Supreme Court’s judgement that pertained to the validity of the Employees’ Pension (amendment) Scheme of 2014.
He emphasised that the proposed consultation should also cover many other matters including an upward revision in the minimum amount of pension, which is now ₹ 1,000.
In a letter written a few days ago to Union Minister for Labour Bhupender Yadav, the CPI (M)’s MP from Kerala, John Brittas, confined himself to the second circular of the EPFO which, he held, was “formulated on fallacious grounds and distorted interpretation” of the Court’s judgement.
He also pointed out that the circular in question had caused “inconceivable agony and perturbation” among a large section of EPF pensioners, who retired prior to September 1, 2014 without exercising the option for higher pensions.
The position, as spelt out in the judgement, was that the Court had neither commanded stoppage of the payment of higher pensions to the pre-2014 retirees nor had it permitted recovery. The operative portion of the judgement had dealt with some other aspects, “that too mostly in favour of the employees.”
The move to reopen cases of the already-sanctioned higher pension “would obviously result in the defiance of the laws of limitation,” the MP said, apprehending that a “regressive and callous” stand of the EPFO would “cast a shadow on the future of the hapless pensioners” of the Employees’ Pension Scheme.
Speaking to The Hindu,” Dr. Brittas said he had planned to raise the matter in Parliament.