The right signal

Mamuni Das | Updated on April 15, 2021

The Railway Ministry’s decision to restore night allowance is welcome

Early this year, some Railway employees were shocked to see deductions from their salaries — on account of the government decision to take away the night allowance from those who had a higher “basic salary”. Railway employees said they would stop working at night if the allowance was withdrawn. This halted the government in its tracks, as it were.

The cut in allowances was a fallout of a government decision (through the Department of Personnel and Training) in November 2020 to remove the night allowance for those with basic salaries of over ₹43,600 or so. “This was to be implemented with effect from July 2017. So, salaries of staff started getting deducted on account of ‘cumulative arrears’, which means all the allowance they had received after July 2017 had to be reversed. Thankfully, the Railway Board has supported the staff,” Shiv Gopal Mishra, General Secretary, All India Railwaymen’s Federation (AIRF), told BusinessLine.

Implementing such a move would impact all employees in ‘operations and maintenance’ like loco pilots, guards, station masters, and engineers.

Night allowance has been a contentious issue in the past, too. It was after such a disagreement that the Justice PB Gajendragadkar Commission in 1978 recommended that those put on duty to work at night are working against the nature and should be compensated, pointed out Mishra.

Of course, in the present days of flexi-timings, lot of people work at night (or their own preferred time) in private and government sector, without any additional compensation. However, work timings do matter — particularly when they are not the choice of the employees.

Moreover, a salary structure that has been agreed between the employer and employee should not be tinkered with without taking employees on board, which is what has happened in this case. The move also impacts civilian employees in the Defence Ministry such as those engaged in Ordnance Factories and Military Engineering Services. No wonder, the Central government employees’ staff union decided to raise this issue through its Joint Consultative Machinery.

Published on April 15, 2021

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