The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) welcomes the submission of the reports of the two boards constituted under India's Working Journalists Act for fixation of wages for journalists and other newspaper employees.
Justice G.R. Majithia, chairperson of both boards, accompanied by other members, submitted the two final reports to the Indian Government's Ministry of Labour on December 31.
Unions that have studied the boards' recommendations report that they involve an increase of between 2.5 and 3 times in the basic wages earned by journalists and other newspaper workers. If current basic wage, dearness allowance and interim relief earlier granted by the wage boards were to be aggregated, the magnitude of the increase would be more moderate.
Under the wage board recommendations, working journalists in the highest class of newspaper establishment, comprising companies with gross annual revenues of more than Indian rupees (INR) 10 billion would have basic monthly wages ranging from INR 13,000 to 25,000 and other newspaper staff, between INR 9,000 and 17,500. The basic wage would be augmented by a partial compensation for inflation (dearness allowance) and a house rent allowance. Workers in especially challenging environments would be eligible for a "hardship allowance". A "night-shift allowance" and "transport allowance" have also been proposed.
An immediate problem that unions have identified is that the wage scales are highly compressed, i.e., a newspaper employee with around seven years of service at a given level would very soon reach the top of his scale, after which he would face the prospect of wage stagnation. It would have in the unions' estimation, been more fair to have a stretched out wage scale with a wide range between the top and bottom levels.
"One stark shortcoming of the award is that it ignores the fact that many employees will reach the ceiling of the new scales as soon as they come into force," said M.L. Talwar, General Secretary of the All-India Newspaper Employees' Federation. "The award is good for beginners but very few fresh recruits are joining on the statutory wage scales these days. Most are being hired on short-term contracts where the wage board award is not applicable."
The report has also made some suggestions for further consideration by the government, on matters such as retirement benefits and promotion policy. A standing body that will deal with issues between newspaper managements and employees has been proposed, as also numerous measures to improve the implementation of the wage award.
India's main trade unions, including the three IFJ affiliates - the Indian Journalists' Union, the All-India Newspaper Employees' Federation and the National Union of Journalists (India) - were represented on the wage boards.
They coordinated their strategies with other unions under the umbrella of the Confederation of Newspapers and News Agencies Employees Organisations.
Union representatives have expressed mixed sentiments about the quality of the award and retain some reservations that certain crucial issues were decided without a vote among the membership of the boards.
"We call for a wide-ranging debate on these recommendations and necessary improvements before implementation," said the IFJ Asia-Pacific.
"Above all, we call for effective measures to ensure universal compliance with the wage award among all newspaper establishments in India."
For further information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific on +612 9333 0919
The IFJ represents more than 600,000 journalists in 125 countries
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