NUJ(I) Statement on the final verdict of the SC on wage board20 Jun, 2017
On the June 19 verdict of the Supreme Court on certain issues arising out of implementation of the Majithia wage boards for the newspaper/ news agency establishments, National Union of Journalists (India) NUJ(I) and its state units welcome the clarification by the two member bench of the Supreme Court on several controversies raised by the newspaper and news agency managements to thwart the full and proper implementation of the Majithia wage boards’ recommendation on wage scales in the newspaper industry.
These clarifications open the door to achieve the ten year struggle of the journalist and non-journalist workers of the industry to get a decent remuneration. The Majithia wage boards gave their recommendations in 2010 and the apex court’s first verdict in the managements’ efforts to stall the implementation came in 2014. For another three years the short sighted managements that otherwise claim to stand for a just and prosperous country sought to avoid implementation of the revised pay scales and other benefits. It is to be hoped that with the June 19, 2017 verdict of the highest court of the land these managements would end their delaying tactics and do justice to their employees first before calling for justice in the world.
Though the demand of workers for contempt proceedings against several managements has not been conceded, the verdict clearly states that the court was only giving yet another chance to the industry to implement the Majithia recommendations The issue of contempt for defying the February 2014 court verdict is therefore still open if the managements do not see reason. The June 19 verdict of the court should therefore be a warning and eye opener for the 19th century managements seeking to be publishers of of 21st century newspapers. If they still fail to implement the workers now have the option of knocking again at the doors of the apex court for justice.
One of the highlights of the verdict is the assertion that the new wage scales and benefits apply equally to so called contract workers as to the regular ones. This abolishes the distinction of contract appointment widely resorted to by the managements to thwart the improvement in the salary scales and benefits of regular workers and delivers a body blow to their efforts to divide and destroy workers’ unity within the industry. The Court has also rejected the pretentious plea of the managements that workers have “voluntarily agreed” to accept lower pay than prescribed by the wage boards.. The verdict is a great step forward in doing justice to workers of the newspaper industry especially journalists whom certain managements have forced to sign on “voluntarily” for low pay and “rejecting” the legally prescribed remuneration.
The verdict exposes the despicable practice in the newspaper industry of linking new employment to a so called “voluntary” pay and a contract system which reduces the journalist who is the key in independent journalism to singing off even the Constitutional right to his own free and independent right to join a professional organisation. The impact of the verdict is that this practice is not acceptable to the Constitutional system of democracy. Once again the apex court has come out in defense of freedom of the journalist and of the Press so long constrained by a narrow anti-democracy contract system of employment of journalists.
The June 19, 2017 verdict makes the State Governments and their Labour Commissioners responsible to ensure the implementation of the new scales of remuneration and benefits to “all employees”. But it has not spelt out need for strengthening the legal arms of these officers in the face of newspaper managements that even deny the labour department inspectors the right to examine their books and even block their entry into the newspaper offices for inspections that are mandatory under the Working Journalists Act.
The NUJ(I) calls upon all its state level units to list the options given by the verdict to ensure full justice to working journalists and constantly interact with the state and central governments to ensure full and successful implementation of the Majithia recommendations and send regular monitoring reports on these to the central office of the NUJ to let the governments and Parliament and state assemblies aware of the progress or lack of it.The NUJ will now set up its own cell to monitor implementation of Majithia wage boards’ recommendations and the consequences of the Supreme Courts series of verdicts on them.