Millennium Post

Trade unions oppose increase of EPFO investment in ETFs

Central trade unions including RSS affiliate Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh (BMS) are up in arms against a proposal to raise proportion of EPFO’s investment in Exchange Trade Funds (ETFs) this fiscal. “We have been opposing it. Last time when they decided to invest in ETF, all trade unions were against it. 

It was a wrong decision. We will oppose any proposal to increase the proportion of EPFO’s investments in ETFs in July 7 meeting of the Central Board of Trustees (CBT),” said Virjesh Upadhyay, BMS General Secretary and an EPFO trustee.

Labour Minister Bandaru Dattatreya had earlier indicated that a proposal to increase proportion of EPFO’s investment in ETFs from 5 per cent of its investible deposits, will be taken up for discussion in Thursday’s CBT meeting.

“A report will be presented before the CBT on (ETF) investments of the EPFO on July 7. Now the report(return) is positive. We will decide quantum of percentage increase. According to the percentage (increase), the amount of investment will also increase,” Dattatreya had said.

Though the proposal is not listed on the agenda of the meeting, any unlisted proposal can be discussed with the permission of the chair. The Employees’ Provident Fund Organisation (EPFO) had started investments in the stock market through ETFs since last August.

Cautious of the volatile nature of stock markets, the EPFO had decided to invest 5 per cent of its investible deposits in ETFs during last fiscal. As per the latest estimates, the body has invested Rs 7,068 crore in ETFs till May 31, 2016 and earned an average yield of over five per cent on these investments.

Another EPFO trustee and National VP of Indian National Trade Union Congress Ashok Singh said: “We will certainly oppose the proposal of increasing investments in ETFs in the CBT meeting on July 7. 

“This is poor workers’ money. It should not be used for investments in stock market. It is like gambling with poor workers’ money. The stock markets are highly volatile,” he added.

Echoing similar views, another EPFO trustee and Hind Mazdoor Sabha Secretary A D Nagpal said he too will oppose any such proposal. All India Trade Union Congress Secretary and EPFO trustee D L Sachdev said: “Besides opposing further increase in ETF investments by EPFO, we will demand stopping any investment in stock market.” 

Meanwhile, te National Joint Council of Action (NJCA), representing 33 lakh Central Government employees, will decide on Wednesday whether to go on strike on July 11, in view of the government’s recent talks with them on what they call a “meagre” pay hike. 

The Centre has fixed a minimum wage of Rs 18,000 in the pay hike approved by the Cabinet earlier this week. However, the central government employees are protesting the decision calling it a meagre rise in view of the price rise.

“Government has initiated talks with NJCA. We welcome it. But the decision regarding going on strike will be taken at the meeting of the council on July 6,” said Convener of NJCA Shivgopal Mishra.
On June 30, the representatives of NJCA including Mishra were called for a meeting with Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, Home Minister Rajnath Singh, Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu and Deputy Railway Minister Manoj Sinha.

 “They have not assured us anything. They have proposed to refer the issue of minimum wage and fitment formula to a committee for reconsideration. The panel is expected to give its report in three to four months,” Mishra said. 

Speculations were rife that the NJCA may defer the July 11 indefinite strike after government heeded to their demand of increasing minimum wage to over Rs 25,000 from Rs 18,000 fixed after considering the recommendations of the 7th Pay Commission. 

Gems & jewellery industry wages lower than  national average

 The average salary in India’s gems and jewellery industry, at Rs 2.52 lakh per annum, is lower than that of other industries like pharma and capital goods, leading to acute labour shortage in the sector, says a report.

 What makes things worse is poor working conditions and limited compliance with health and safety standards, which explains low interest among job-seekers for the industry, the Assocham-Thought Arbitrage Research Institute (TARI) study found out. 

The pecking order has pharmaceuticals in the lead with an average salary of Rs 5.09 lakh per annum. The figure for capital goods reads Rs 4.94 lakh, while electronics settles for Rs 4.43 lakh, chemical (Rs 3.97 lakh), automotive (Rs 3.77 lakh), construction material (Rs 2.88 lakh), metal and metal products (Rs 2.54 lakh), which makes them more lucrative for job-seekers.
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