IFJ Welcomes New Wage Award for India's Journalists and Calls for Full Compliance

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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