Tuesday, November 19, 2013

UP employees strike continuing, Govt may invoke ESMA

Despite claims by employee associations that essential services in the state have been hit as a result of their strike, healthcare delivery mechanism in UP has remained largely unaffected with as many as 478 surgeries being performed at eight government hospitals in the city alone. Nearly 200 surgeries were also performed at government hospitals in the Lucknow division as well. According to official information released by Faizabad, Azamgarh, Basti, Bareilly and Chitrakoot divisions, health services, though tempered with delays, continued to remain functional in these areas as well.

As the unions' strike entered the seventh day on Monday, state government employees continued to demand an increase in grade pay, hike in dearness allowance and change in norms for Assured Career Promotions (ACP). With no signs of a compromise in sight, officials said they would consider imposing the Essential Services Maintenance Act ( ESMA) to ensure that the delivery of essential services is not affected by the strike. On Monday, a local lawyer also filed a PIL in the Lucknow bench of Allahabad High Court seeking action against state government employees who are on a strike.

If the Samajwadi Party government accepts the demands, it will result in better pay and pre-requisites to UP government employees even in comparison to their Central government counterparts.

During Mayawati's tenure, the state government had revised the ACP norms for employees and made them eligible for promotions after 10, 16 and 24 years of service, respectively. At present, the striking employees are asking for a further relaxation in these norms, demanding that promotions be granted after service tenure of 7, 17 and 21 years. Central government employees, in contrast, are only eligible for promotions after 10 and 20 years of service, respectively.

It will not be easy, as a result, for the government to tide over the current impasse. Through a series of appeasement measures - read vote bank politics - successive governments have first allowed parity of state and Central government pay scales, effective January 1, 2006, and then to an increase that has taken state level pay scales at least a notch higher than the Central government scales. Now, striking employees are asking for another revision that will only hike the levels one step higher.

For the government, the financial implications are not only phenomenally high, but also impossible to fund. At a rough estimate, for every 10% increase in dearness allowance for 16 lakh employees in UP, the government must shell out about Rs 500 crore. In the case of the ongoing strike, change in an employee's package - salary, transport allowance, dearness allowance and medical reimbursements - will mean an additional of Rs 1,000 crore. Overall, the amount is set to exceed Rs 50,000 crore, which the cash-strapped UP government is in no position to pay. What makes it even more interesting is that the finance department, under successive governments, has resisted the relaxation, terming the resultant changes "financially unviable". At present, of UP's Rs 2,21,201.19 crore annual budget, more than 30% of the non-plan budget is set aside for payment of employee salaries and perquisites. In comparison, human resource component in capital expenditure borne by most private companies does not exceed 7% to 10% of the total expenses.

Source : Times of India

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