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Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Left opposes performance-linked salaries

Yet another idea mooted during the United Progressive Alliance government — to introduce performance-linked salaries for government employees — has raised the hackles of the Left-backed trade unions.
Reacting angrily, the unions said any move to this end would hurt the interests of employees at lower levels of the hierarchy.
“The proposal of performance-linked salary for a government employee is illegal, illegitimate and unconstitutional. Basic salary cannot be linked with performance. There can be a performance bonus, as prevalent in some industries, but that should not be a part of the salary,” said Gurudas Dasgupta, general secretary, All-India Trade Union Congress (AITUC), which is affiliated to the Communist Party of India (CPI).
However, even as the Left-supported trade unions expressed strong opposition, the Congress-linked Indian National Trade Union Congress (INTUC) supported the idea.
The Sixth Pay Commission is examining the feasibility of introducing performance-linked pay in the government.
The commission has constituted a study group headed by Indian Institute of Management-Ahmedabad Professor Biju Varkkey to develop a model that would link the pay package of central government employees to their performance. The commission’s award is expected by March next year.
The president of CPI(M) trade wing Centre of Indian Trade Unions, M K Pandhe, said the idea would not help government employees in the lower levels of the bureaucratic hierarchy.
“Performance-linked salary for government employees does not hold any meaning. This will be subject to high distortions, as the performance will be judged by the top officials who are always biased against lower grade employees. This is also against the minimum wage guaranteed by the Supreme Court. In the name of such a system, the government wants to give better pay packages to senior government officials. Salaries of government employees should be determined on the basis of the cost of minimum standard of living and capacity of the government to pay.”
However, G Sanjeeva Reddy of the Congress affiliated trade union, INTUC, cautiously welcomed the proposition.
“We support the proposal, provided that minimum wage is guaranteed for central government employees. However, this issue should be discussed with the central government employee associations and progress should be made on the basis of the consensus. Otherwise, it will lead to a lot of controversy because it has been proposed for the first time,” he said.
“This could be implemented for the middle- and top-level government employees,” Reddy added.
When asked whether senior government officials should be paid on a par with their counterparts in the private sector, Reddy said, “This is neither possible nor desirable as more than 26 per cent people in this country live below the poverty line. We cannot compare salaries of government employees with the private sector employees as the latter work only with profit motive whereas the government has to fulfil certain social obligations. However, nobody should be punished for working for the government. They should be paid proper salary with respect to their skill and responsibility.”