Trade unions urged the government to provide a minimum wage of Rs 21,000, a minimum pension of Rs 6,000 under Employees' Pension Scheme and tax exemption on an annual income of up to Rs 10 lakh in a pre-budget meeting with Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Thursday.
The unions have also raised concerns over rising unemployment in the country, saying "employment generation has nose-dived in recent period".
During the meeting, they suggested that massive public investment in infrastructure, social sectors and agriculture would generate employment and the Union Budget should give it a priority and allocate necessary funds for this.
They demanded that all vacant sanctioned posts in various government departments, including railways, PSUs and autonomous institutions, should be filled through fresh recruitment.
They also suggested the finance minister that ban on creation of new positions and mandatory reduction of government posts should be lifted. They noted that denial of the level playing field to many PSUs ( BSNL, MTNL, ITI etc) had put thousands of jobs in jeopardy.
The unions also pointed out that the merger of BSNL-MTNL and voluntary retirement (which is actually forced retirement) of almost 79,000 workers is just opposed to the idea of job creation.
Lodging their protest against fixed-term employment (FTE), the unions said the provision of FTE should be done away with, and concerned notification should be rescinded forthwith.
They also raised the issue of price rise saying that the government should ban speculative forward trading in essential commodities and take steps to curtail hoardings along with strengthening public distribution system.
On disinvestments and strategic sale of public sector units, they said that budgetary support should be provided for the revival of potentially viable sick PSUs.
It also suggested that the finance minister refrains from the strategic sale of viable PSUs in core sectors like steel, coal, mining, heavy engineering, pharmaceuticals, dredging, civil aviation, financial institution, among others.
Under the strategic sale, the government becomes a minority stakeholder by reducing its share below 50 percent of total equity.
The unions have asked to extend the rural employment guarantee scheme MGNREGA to urban areas also and enhance minimum employment guarantee to 200 days in a year.
They also lodged a protest against foreign direct investment in crucial sectors, saying FDI should not be allowed in railways, defence production, financial sector, retail trade etc.
Trade unions also suggested stopping the labour law amendments that curtail the basic and trade union rights of workers and provide unhindered 'hire & fire' facilities to employers.
They also demanded that the threshold limit for coverage of establishments under the retirement fund body EPFO should be reduced to 10 workers from 20 at present.
Gratuity should be calculated on 30 days wages instead of 15 days of wages per completed year of service without any ceiling, they said. The government should not make Aadhaar linking mandatory, the unions added.
On the income tax exemption, they urged that the ceiling for income tax for salaried persons and pensioners should be raised to Rs 10 lakh per year. Besides, they also demanded that the income tax ceiling for senior citizens should be raised to Rs 8 lakh.
All perks and fringe benefits like housing, medical and education facilities and running allowances in railways should be exempted from income tax net totally, they said.
"During the course of the meeting, representatives of Trade Unions and Labour Organisations shared their views and suggestions regarding labour and employment issues. Discussions were held on skilling, re-skilling and up-skilling of the existing labour force. Quality of job creation and ensuring minimum wages of workers were discussed," a finance ministry statement said.
It also stated that during the meeting, representatives of trade unions and labour organisations shared their views and suggestions regarding job creation, labour concerns and quality of employment issues.
They also emphasised the quality of job creation and ensuring minimum wages of workers in detail besides the need for streamlining various schemes to have better results, it added.Along with the finance minister, the meeting was attended by Anurag Singh, Thakur, Minister of State for Finance & Corporate Affairs, Rajeev Kumar and top officials of labour and finance ministries.