THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The unilateral decision by the government to fix the bonus based on last year’s rates has not gone down well with the entrepreneurs. They complained that providing bonus at the rate fixed but the government would further stretch the capacity of businesses to withstand the impact of Covid-19 pandemic.“Many entrepreneurs who gave up to 20 per cent bonus last year are struggling this period,” said state president of Kerala State Small Industries Association (KSSIA), M Khalid. “Any bonus payment over and above the minimum amount mandated by law should factor in the profitability of the business.” According to KSSIA, the circular issued by Labour Commissioner was arbitrary. The Payment of Bonus Act, 1965 provides for a minimum bonus of 8.33 per cent of wages.
Khalid said the circular came at a time when even the trade unions had agreed for minimum bonus payment this time. The entrepreneurs wanted the bonus rates to be fixed at the local level than a one-size-fits-all solution. A statement from Labour Commissionerate said that the decision was taken as the stakeholders could not attend the discussions on bonus due to Covid-19.
The bus operators too are aggrieved over the additional pay out because most of the private buses have stopped operation since August. Traditional industries such as coir and cashew which employ lakhs of workers too felt the heat of bonus payment. While the entrepreneurs have agreed to pay the bonus during the discussions with the government, they complained that the decision was made under pressure from trade unions. “Excess cost is imposed on us in the name of vote bank politics.
Apart from 20 per cent bonus, we were forced to give advance bonus and ex-gratia which are unheard in other industries,” said a cashew factory owner. The Federation of Cashew Processors and Exporters, Cashew Manufacturers Guild, Kollam Cashew Manufacturers Association and Federation of Indian Cashew Industry (FICI) have challenged the order in High Court.