Supreme Court refuses to entertain plea seeking minimum wages for unorganised sector workers

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Friday refused to entertain a PIL filed by social activist Swami Agnivesh seeking minimum wages for around 50 crore workers in the unorganised sector. A bench of Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and S K Kaul asked the activist to approach the authorities concerned for the relief. “We are not inclined to hear this (petition). You can go to the authorities with your grievances,” the bench said.

The PIL was seeking minimum wages for workers in the unorganised sector. It said 50 crore workers are employed in the unorganised sector and their rights under Article 14 (Equality before law), 21 (Protection of life and personal liberty) and 39 (principles of policy to be followed by the State) have been violated. The plea said that millions of workers including domestic workers, building and construction workers, sewer workers, brick kiln and stone quarry workers, those in loading and unloading goods sheds, parcel offices of railways, docks and ports etc., cartload drivers, hand cart drivers, beedi rollers, labellers and packers, collectors of minor agricultural and forest produce, collectors of raw hides and skins, scavengers are performing duties for which they deserve remuneration higher than class IV employees of government.

“The unorganized sector employees are performing/discharging duties which are far more arduous, drudgerous and hazardous as in the case of manual sewage cleaning employees and of much higher value than as is being normally performed by the class IV Government employees and, therefore, they deserve remuneration higher than the class IV employees of government. “It is only due to lack of an organized and collective voice/bargaining power that these citizens have been denied their just and fair recognition/rewards in the form of wages/salaries,” the plea had said.

It had contended that approximately 475 million unorganised workers in India, who are at the bottom layer of society and who continue to be poor, deprived and exploited, have the first right on the resources of the country. “Any neglect in addressing their misery and suffering is a crime against humanity, spirit of negation of the welfare State and negation of the spirit of the Constitution of India,” Swami Agnivesh said, adding that, the labour in the unorganised sector is the most voiceless and require the well-deserved and the most caring consideration of the Court.

Agnivesh also pointed out the Asiad workers case and reiterated the courts words in that case: “When a person provides labour or service to another for a remuneration which is less than the minimum wage, the labour or service provided by him falls within the scope and ambit of forced labour under Article 23”.

Free Press Journal