Centre mulling hike in minimum pay after unions threaten strike

New Delhi: With various associations of central government employees announcing an indefinite strike from July 11 against the "meagre" pay hike announced in the 7th Pay Commission, the government is considering increasing the minimum pay up to Rs 20,000, informed sources said. But the employees associations are adamant that the minimum pay should be increased to Rs 26,000. "Increasing the minimum pay upto Rs 26,000 as demanded by the employees union is not feasible in the present situation but the government is trying to find a way out," a top government official told IANS on the condition of anonymity. While the fate of the strike is still unknown, a central government junior staffer on condition of anonymity told IANS: "I don't think much will come out of the strike. The only thing the government might do is increase the allowances slightly, that's it." Shivgopal Mishra, General Secretary, All India Railway Men Federation and Convenor of the National Joint Council of Action (NJCA) also indicated that the government is mulling to increase the minimum pay, but said that until the government comes out with a formal proposal the strike won't be called off.  "We met the representatives of the government on June 30. They had proposed to refer our demands of minimum wage to some committee. However, we haven’t heard officially from them so far," Mishra told IANS. NJCA is a front formed by six government staff unions, including Confederation of Central Government Employees (CCGE), All India Defence Employee Federation and National Coordination Committee of Pensioners Association, to oppose the hikes given by the 7th Pay Commission. NJCA officer-bearers met Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, Railways Minister Suresh Prabhu and Minister of State for Railways Manoj Sinha, on June 30 to discuss the issue. On being told that the government was planning to increase the minimum wage to Rs 20,000, Mishra said : “We don’t know about it. But I would like to mention that Rs 20,000 is too less in these times of inflation. We will have further discussions with the government when we get an official statement. "They have fixed the minimum wage at a meagre Rs 18,000 in the 7th Pay Commission. In the last Pay Commission, the basic pay was Rs 7,000. They multiplied it by 2.57 (fitment formula) and came to Rs 18,000. We are demanding 3.68 fitment formula," he said. The NJCA officer-bearers will meet on July 6 to decide whether they intend to go ahead with their earlier plan to observe nationwide strike from July 11. "As many as 33 lakh government employees, excluding the defence personnel, will go on strike if we do not get some kind of assurance from the government to reconsider the decision. The major contention is on the minimum wage, which we are demanding to be Rs 26,000," K.K.N. Kutty, President of CCGE and general secretary of national coordination committee of pensioners association, told IANS. "We are waiting to hear from the government by July 4 evening or July 5. In our meeting, it was only a verbal commitment. If the government gives us specific details like which committee will review, etc. then we will defer the strike," Kutty said. C. Srikumar, General Secretary, All India Defence Employees Federation, told IANS, "We had met the government on June 9, and suggested various improvements in the 7th Pay Commission's recommendations. But the government has not given any heed to whatever improvements we had proposed. They have given same hike as suggested by 7th Pay Commission."  Srikumar contends that the prices of essential commodities considered by the Seventh Pay Commission itself were faulty, which has resulted in the meagre rise. The NJCA is also demanding for the withdrawal of the new national pension scheme (NPS), which came into effect from October 2004. The Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh (BMS), affiliated to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, the parent body of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, has also expressed its "dissatisfaction" at the 7th Pay Commission's recommendations. The cabinet approved the Seventh Pay Commission's recommendations for central government employees on July 29, which will impact some 47 lakh central government employees and 53 lakh pensioners.