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Assurance to TU leaders — PM to take up PF rate with Labour, Finance Ministers

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The Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh, with (from left) the Labour Minister, Mr Sis Ram Ola, Mr W.R. Vardarajan of CITU, Mr Gurudas Dasgupta of AITUC, and Mr Sanjiva Reddy of INTUC, and other trade union leaders at a meeting in the Capital on Wednesday. -- Kamal Narang

New Delhi , June 23

THE Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh, has assured labour leaders from all over the country that he would take a decision on their demand for raising the interest rate on provident fund (PF) only after taking up the issue with the Ministers of Finance and Labour.

"I will take up the demands with the Ministers for Finance and Labour and then take a decision," Dr Singh reportedly told a delegation of labour leaders of the nine Central trade unions who met him on Wednesday.

He also assured the delegation that regular dialogues with trade unions would be on his priority list.

The trade unions were unanimous in their demand to raise the interest rate on employees provident fund (EPF) from the current 9.5 per cent.

The labour leaders appealed to the Prime Minister that interest on provident fund should be treated separately from the soft interest regime of the banking system.

They were of the opinion that, if necessary, the Government should provide for funds required for paying higher interest on PF deposits as social security expenditure.

Apart from demanding an increase in the PF interest rate, the unions were unanimous in their demands for legislation for unorganised labour, increasing the ceiling for income-tax exemption limit, a social security Bill and setting up of the Sixth Central Pay Commission.

Briefing newspersons after the meeting with the Prime Minister, Mr Sanjeeva Reddy, General Secretary, INTUC, said that Dr Singh had assured that the demands would be considered sympathetically.

"Dr Singh said that since there are time limitations for this year's Budget, all demands might not be fulfilled immediately," he added.The INTUC also demanded setting up of a workers' board for the unorganised sector workers.

Mr Gurudas Dasgupta, leader of the All-India Trade Union Congress (AITUC), said that the AITUC has demanded bonus for all, amendment in the Payment of Wage Act making default in paying wage a criminal offence, and withdrawal of recruitment ban on certain Government offices.

It has also demanded that packaging of foodgrains in jute bags be made mandatory.

Mr Girish Awasthi, Deputy General Secretary of the Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh (BMS), said that the BMS has demanded raising of the income-tax exemption level to Rs 2 lakh along with demands for contract labour abolition, implementation of social security laws and setting up of the Sixth Pay Commission.

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