Who says there are no free meals? Those who do have perhaps not met some of India’s public sector employees who are being paid salaries despite their plants and workplaces being closed. Not only do these employees get paid for sitting at home, they are also benefitting from the labours of other employees within the company through bonuses and periodic hikes.
Take the case of HMT. Its unit in Srinagar, HMT Chinar Watches is shut, yet it pays for employees who have refused to take the VRS. Same is the case for most of the other public sector companies in the valley and in other locations in the country where factories have been closed. Pampered employees refuse to leave their home and continue to get paid from the government. It is for employees like these that the benefit of seventh pay commission should not be allowed.
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While the seventh pay commission is for central government employees, public sector companies use it as a benchmark to fix their salaries. Performance of the company or the skill and performance of the employee is not a criterion for awarding salary hikes.
There is little doubt that the seventh pay commission has been announced with a desperate hope of winning the election. A government riddled with corruption cases, poor track record on all fronts has resorted to what it does best and has been doing so over the years- doling out freebies. The impact of this largesse will not only be severe for the central government but also for the state governments and public sector companies who peg employee salaries to the pay commission recommendations.
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A number of public sector companies are living on borrowed times. In almost every budget, government quietly allocates a small portion of funds to keep these companies running. There is no economic sense in keeping these companies running but for the fact that these ‘temples of ancient India’ are too sacred to be shut.
There are companies like MTNL and Hindustan Photo Films where employee cost is more than the revenue the company generates. Out of the 45 listed public sector companies in the manufacturing sector nearly one-third have employees as the biggest cost component, and mind you these are not service sector companies but manufacturing ones.
In a normal competitive world, these companies and their manufacturing units would have been good targets for land sharks but the protective arm of the government and free use of tax payer money is keeping them away. It’s a mystery why the government does not transfer these employees to some of their other ventures rather than bankroll their non-productivity.
Hard working employees deserve a salary hike but the hardly working ones need to be dealt with strictly. This is especially true at a time when unemployment rates are high and there is enough young talent desperate to work and contribute to the economy.
It is unlikely the seventh pay commission will look at merit over mediocrity. The commission will be painting everyone with the same brush and a spineless government will supply the canvas bought from the taxpayer’s money.