Following the Note Ban announced on 8th November last year, many factory and shop owners all over the country paid one month’s wages in advance to get rid of their old rupee notes.
On 21st December, Government of India issued an Ordinance to amend the Payment of Wages Act, 1936, to permit employers to pay wages by cheque or digital transfer without having to seek the workers’ consent.
Moving from cash to cheque payments has resulted in inordinate delays in wage payments. In many cases, workers received their monthly salaries three weeks late. It is a gross violation of the Payment of Wages Act, which requires employers to pay wages and salaries by the 7th of each month.
In several other cases, workers have been issued post-dated cheques, with employers imposing the condition that the workers should not deposit the cheques in their bank accounts before a certain date or without seeking permission from the management.
Crores of urban workers live in jhuggies, in rented accommodation with no formal contract. Those who collect informal rent do not permit them to have any documentary proof of residence. Without proof of residence, they are unable to open bank accounts.
Many employers have resorted to devious means of depriving workers of the potential benefits of being paid by cheque instead of cash. For instance, one of the potential benefits is that workers currently being paid less than the legal minimum wage can hope for a raise once their wages are on record. To deprive workers of this benefit, employers in many parts of the National Capital Region of Delhi have extended the working hours from 8 to 12 hours per day, with the overtime work being off the record.
All of these show that the Note Ban has added to the problems of unemployment and insecurity of livelihood. It has given rise to new devious means of exploitation of labour. In the name of digital India, basic rights of workers are being violated, leading to ever higher degrees of insecurity and exploitation.