On Monday, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal announced an increase in minimum wages and said that around 55 lakh contractual workers in the national capital would be benefited from the decision.
He claimed it is the highest ever increase in minimum wages by any state in India and said that Delhi’s minimum wage (Rs 14,842) is three times more than the national minimum wage (Rs 4,628).
The Supreme Court on October 18, 2019, allowed the Delhi government to notify the revised minimum wages for workers in the city. Recommended by a 36-member committee, this raise will result in a 37% hike in worker’s minimum wages and all permanent, fixed-term, contractual, casual, as well as daily-wage workers, will benefit from this order.
The objections raised by the employers’ associations were rejected by the Supreme Court on October 14, as it made this wage hike final. The SC bench comprising Justices UU Lalit and Aniruddha Bose approved the Delhi government’s petition based on average prices of food items and clothing component and a prescribed percentage of other components.
As per the notification, Rs 14,842 per month needs to be paid to unskilled workers; Rs 16,341 per month for the clerical and supervisory staff or those under the semi-skilled category; A monthly wage of Rs 17,991 for skilled workers sans graduation degrees; And graduate skilled workers will be entitled to a minimum of Rs 19,572.
But this case had been pending in the court for two years. In March 2017, the Delhi government had issued a notification on the hike on minimum wages for workers, which was challenged in the Delhi High Court by 44 Employers’ Associations.
The Delhi High Court had stayed the notification after the employers’ association argued that the burden of increased minimum wages would affect them badly.
But during the press conference, Kejriwal said that neither his government gave in to the demands of these associations nor lost the vigour to fight the battle in the Supreme Court, challenging the High Court order.
“Among various steps to revive the economy, financially aiding the poor and stabilizing the economy, this is an important step as it will increase the purchasing power of the poor, resulting in production which will further increase employment,” Kejriwal said yesterday.
He also announced that the employees will get dearness allowance for the months of April to September and a Diwali bonus of one month’s salary.
In its order, the Supreme Court had said: “We allow the petitioner state (Delhi government) to take the draft notification to the logical conclusion and direct that till said notification comes into effect, the relationship shall be governed by and in terms of the notification dated March 3, 2017, as directed in the order of October 31, 2018. Once the notification is issued, the appropriate legal consequence and sequitur shall follow.”
After the High Court ruling turned down the wage hike in 2017, the workers had appealed the Supreme Court to intervene. The apex court’s 2018 order gave interim relief to the workers.
The proposed hike announced in 2017 was substantial but it was still short of the minimum wages given to central government employees by the Seventh Central Pay Commission, which amounts to Rs 18,000 per month, Newsclick reported.
The Delhi government had wanted to hike wages from Rs 9,745 to Rs 13,350 per month for unskilled workers, and similarly increase it for semi-skilled and skilled workers by computing it on a pro-rata or per day of work basis.
Even now, the largely hiked wages managed through a long court battle leaves room for further hikes by the Delhi government.