Wage Board: Newspapers have to implement award in full, says SC

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Monday said that the Majithia Wage Board Award on wages for newspaper employees have to be “implemented in full” and wages notified under it were “non-negotiable”.

“The Majithia Wage Board Award has been approved by this Court by its judgment dated February 7, 2014 … The Award, therefore, has to be implemented in full,” said the bench of Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justice Navin Sinha in their judgment.

“…there can be no manner of doubt that a reiteration of the scope and ambit of the terms of the Award would necessarily be called for and justified. This is what we propose to do … so as to ensure due and full compliance with the order(s) of the Court”, the judgment said.

The court noted that the non-implementation or partial implementation of the Award “stemmed” from the understanding of award by the different newspaper establishments.

Justice Gogoi, speaking for the bench said: “The default alleged though is unmistakably evident to us, in the absence of any wilful or deliberate intention to commit the same cannot make any of the newspaper establishments liable for contempt.”

“On the other hand, they are entitled to one more opportunity to implement the Award in its proper spirit and effect …”

Holding that there was no distinction between regular and contractual employees as far as the enforcement of award was concerned, the court said: “There is nothing either in the provisions of the Act or in the terms of the Wage Board Award which would enable us to hold that the benefits of the Award would be restricted to the regular employees and not contractual employees.”

It also said that the wages notified under Majithia Wage Board Award were non-negotiable.

“So far as the concept of heavy cash losses is concerned, we are of the view that the very expression itself indicates that the same is different from mere financial difficulties and such losses apart from the extent of being crippling in nature must be consistent over the period of time stipulated in the Award.”

“This is a question of fact that has to be determined from case to case,” the court said as it addressed the contention of newspaper establishments suffering heavy losses on account of the implementation of the wage board recommendations including payment of arrears.

On variable pay, the court said that it has taken a view that it was incorporated in the Majithia Award in order to give “fair and equitable treatment” to employees of newspapers and thus there was no question of withholding the said benefit by taking any other view with regard to “variable pay” can arise.

“In fact, a reading of the relevant part of the Award would go to show that the concept of ‘variable pay; which was introduced in the Award stems from grade pay contained in the Report of the 6th Pay Commission and was intended to bring the working journalist and non-journalist employees covered by the Act at par with the Central Government employees to the extent possible,” the judgment said.

The court said that while deciding 83 contempt petitions alleging that wages and allowances as per the Award of the Majithia Wage Board, duly approved and notified by the Central Government, have not been paid. This involved most of the big banner newspaper establishments.

There were three writ petitions alleging arbitrary transfer and termination/retrenchment of the concerned journalists and employees, who claim to have demanded due implementation of the Majithia Wage Board Award.

The Majithia panel was set up by the Congress-led UPA government in 2007 and four years later its recommendations were accepted by the union cabinet. The Gazette notification on this was published on November 11, 2011.

In February 2014, the Supreme Court had upheld the recommendations and directed newspaper companies to implement them. (IANS)

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