A retired Banker, Thakar Singh floated a message on Whatsapp on the first day of April, 2018 expressing his concerns about the Gratuity (Amendment ) Act, 2018. He asks, "Why the central government, claiming 'SABKA SAATH- SABKA VIKAS', is discriminating between the central government employees and central government managed banks employees while awarding the gratuity?" He adds, " Where as the effective date of gratuity payment for the central employees is Jan 1st, 2016 but for the bankers it is March 29th, 2018. What is the fault of all those bank employees, who retired between this time period? As the issue of gratuity was delayed by the government and not by the employees, it is totally INJUST."
Who benefits from the Gratuity Act?
Placing the Payment of Gratuity (Amendment ) Bill, 2017 before Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha; Central Minister of Labour and Employment, Santosh Kumar Gangwar stated the objects and reasons of the amendment bill. The Payment of Gratuity Act, 1972 (the Act) was enacted to provide for a scheme for the payment of gratuity to employees engaged in factories, mines, oilfields, plantations, ports, railway companies, shops or other establishments who have rendered a minimum five years of continuous service with the establishment employing ten or more persons. The calculation of gratuity amount is based on a formula, which is fifteen days of wages for each year of completed service, subject to a certain ceiling. The present ceiling, as provided under section 4 of the Act is rupees ten lakhs which was fixed in the year 2010.
After implementation of the 7th Central Pay Commission, the ceiling of gratuity for Central Government employees has been enhanced from Rs. 10 lakh to Rs. 20 lakh. In the past, the ceiling amount of gratuity under the Act has followed the Central Pay Commission recommendations.
Therefore, considering the inflation and wage increase even in case of employees engaged in private and public sector, the entitlement of gratuity is also required to be revised for employees who are covered under the Act.
It has also been proposed to empower the Central Government to notify the ceiling proposed, instead of amending the said Act, so that the limit can be revised from time to time keeping in view the increase in wage and inflation, and future Pay Commissions.
What Is The Bone Of Contention ?
After the bill was passed by Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha, the Central Government issued a Gazette notification on March 29, 2018 which was effective from 29.03.2018. The notification enables the government to enhance the ceiling of tax-free gratuity to Rs. 20 lakh from the existing Rs. 10 lakh for employees under the Payment of Gratuity Act. But this effective date (29.03.2018) has become the bone of contention.
S. Venkateshwar Reddy, National Secretary General of All India Regional Rural Bank Employees Association (AIRRBEA) accepts, "The working class in India were of the view that the amendment provision of enhanced ceiling up to Rs. 20 lakh will be effective from 01.01.2016, the date from which the Central government employees have been allowed the revised limit."
But why the Central Government has taken a discriminatory step is a cause of concern for the Trade Unions. The Unions feel cheated by the govt's decision. AIRRBEA General Secretary, Mr. Reddy alleges, "The notification has been a matter of not only a surprise to The Trade Unions/Working Class, but also has been an example of anti-employee attitude of the Central Government and its Labour Ministry ."
The following questions arise:
Why was the effective date ignored when enhancing the gratuity ceiling?
Were the employees not affected by these factors of inflation and wage increase during the period from 01.01.2016 to 28.03.2018?
Were these factors only affecting the central government employees during the above stated period?
Why the discrimination?
Why the double standards?
All India Kisan Sabha Haryana Secretary and a Trade Unionist Dr. Balbir Singh explains the reason behind this discrimination, "All the governments use divide and rule policy. The present central government is also using this policy by bifurcating the working class into central government employees and others. In addition to this, the government is also benefitting the private sector owners by not extending the gratuity enhancement limit to the private sector employees in consonance with central government employees."
Mr. Reddy warns the central government, " There will be a wide spread protest against this motivated and anti-worker approach of the Central Government, and we shall be a party to such protest actions jointly to be decided by Trade Unions in banks/Central Trade Unions and other Federations so that the authorities can be forced to review the date of effect of the above amendment in line with the same related to Central Government Employees."
A retired Banker, Mr. S.C Bhardawaj says, " The Central Government is compensating the loss made by Nirav Modi and others by snatching the bread and slice of the retired bank employees."