“Successive Governments have failed; the so-called champions of labourers have also failed. But this court cannot fail to protect the interest of 40 crore workers,” observed the Madras High Court while directing the Centre to explain as to why it has failed to revise minimum wages fixed at Rs 8,000 after eight years.
“It is the duty of the Central government to redetermine the monthly wages under Section 4 (1-B) of the Employee’s Compensation Act and notify regularly. Invariably, every successive government does not notify or re-fix the monthly wages at regular intervals violating the rights of employees. It is not known as to what the labour leaders are doing in this aspect,” he added.
As per the case, Vignesh alias vigneshwaran, a welder with Pacifica Chennai Project Infrastructure Company fell from the seventh floor while pulling iron ankles on August 8, 2016. He subsequently succumbed to his injuries following which his parents moved the Employees Compensation Commissioner (ECC) seeking compensation.
In the absence of any contra or rebuttal evidence and with both the company wherein he was employed and the insurer ICICI Lombard General Insurance failing to appear, the ECC fixed the compensation at Rs 8.95 Lakh. Questioning the adequacy of the quantum of compensation and reckoning the period of interest, his parents moved the present appeal. However, Justice Kirubakaran on noting that though the ECC found that as per minimum wages, the welder’s monthly salary was Rs 16,704, it had reduced and fixed the monthly income as Rs 8,000 as per Employees Compensation Act and awarded Rs 8.95 lakh, put forth a question to the Centre as to when the Central government will revise the quantum of ‘monthly wages’ of the workmen from Rs 8,000 as fixed by the notification dated January 18, 2010 under Section 4(1B) of the Employee’s Compensation Act.
He also raised a volley of questions which included as to why the Centre should not remove the notified ceiling on ‘monthly wages’, why not introduce a provision in the Act to revise the wages mandatorily every year since the purchase power, earning power, inflation and standard of living vary every year.
Also, pointing out that a similar aspect prevails in cases of the amounts fixed in schedule II of the Motor Vehicles Act determined in 1994 and that the court is duty bound to redetermine the monthly wages adopting a pragmatic calculation, sought the Centre to explain as to why not the ECC be permitted to follow the minimum wages fixed by the respective State Governments in case the minimum wage amount fixed by the Central government is lower than the one fixed by the respective State.
Justice Kirubakaran on suo motu impleading Union Ministry of Labour and Employment and secretary, Labour and Employment Department, Tamil Nadu posted the case to December 03 for their response on queries.