India will protect jobs even if it means pay cuts: Mukherjee (Lead)

February 20th, 2009 - 6:07 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Feb 20 (IANS) External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee Friday urged the people of India to share the pain of economic crisis, and said the interests of labour force would be protected even if it meant slight cuts in wages and salaries.
“The government’s approach of inclusive growth is the critical component of its strategy to ensure an early recovery from the current crisis,” Mukherjee told a national labour conference at the Ashok Hotel here.

“Jobs must be protected even if it means some reduction in compensation,” said the minister, who has the temporary charge of finance, since Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who holds the portfolio, is recovering after a heart surgery.

“The government of India has been conscious of the magnitude of this still-deepening crisis and has been taking steps to mitigate its impact on the Indian society,” he said. “We must display the spirit of solidarity by sharing equally the pain of this crisis.”

Mukherjee’s comments come against the backdrop of Labour Minister Oscar Fernandes informing parliament Wednesday of large-scale job losses in sectors like mining, textiles, gems and jewellery, automobiles and IT.

Fernandes said the government has not undertaken any exhaustive study on layoffs due to the economic slowdown, but that the Labour Bureau in Chandigarh has conducted a study on the job situation in these sectors.

“According to this study, job loss of half a million persons has been found and average earnings have declined by 3.45 percent during October-December, 2008,” Fernandes told the upper house of parliament.

He also admitted in the Lok Sabha Friday that the 500,000 lob loss estimate did not reflect the position across the country, but added that the government was addressing the issues concern with all earnestness.

“I agree that it is only a sample survey by the Labour Bureau. It is not the report of the entire country. It does not reflect the total job loss in the country,” Fernandes said in response to a motion in the lower house.

Mukherjee told the labour conference that his government will also oppose any form protectionism by rich nations, while assuring that further pump priming of the economy would be undertaken if the situation so demanded.

“We are witnessing signs of protectionism in the world’s biggest economy,” he said, adding: “We will need to argue against this trend at the international fora.”

Speaking to reporters later, Mukherjee said that the government will not shy away from giving a further stimulus to the economy. “Adequate resources will be provided,” he said, but did not go into the specifics of the measures planned.

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