Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister YS Jagan Mohan Reddy on Thursday told state employees, who have been on protest mode over the past few months demanding implementation of the pay revision commission recommendations forthwith, not to have high expectations on wage revision but assured them that he would do "whatever I could do to the best of my ability".
"You should not impose additional (financial) burden on the government. Appreciate the current situation and please get practical here. Just give me 2-3 days time and see what best we can do," the Chief Minister told the employees' associations at his first-ever interaction with them.
At the same time, the Chief Minister indicated that the wage revision would encompass adjustment of the 27 per cent interim relief (being paid from July 2019), bringing little cheer to the employees.
Barring the assurance that the government was considering the release of pending five dearness allowance instalments as the first priority, the Chief Minister made no mention about the other major demands raised by the employees' associations, including the abolition of the Contributory Pension Scheme.
The state government employees have been on an agitation mode for the past few months demanding that the pay revision commission recommendations be implemented forthwith.
Besides, they raised several issues like the abolition of the Contributory Pension Scheme, release of pending DA instalments, regularisation of contract and outsourced employees, implementation of a new health insurance scheme, among others.
On behalf of the Chief Minister, government advisor (public affairs) SRK Reddy had assured the employees that the PRC issue would be sorted out by the end of October and other issues by end of November 2021.
But the government sat down to consider the PRC recommendations only on December 1 and engaged the employees' associations in talks a few times.
A Committee of Secretaries, headed by the Chief Secretary, recommended that only 14.29 per cent fitment be granted to employees in line with the Central Pay Commission recommendations, a proposal the staff associations vehemently opposed.
The associations put forth demands that a fitment ranging from 34 to 55 per cent be granted but the government pleaded that such high revision in wages could not be considered given the precarious financial position of the state.
As the employees set January 9 as a deadline for the government to take a final call on the vexatious pay revision issue, the Chief Minister finally took it upon himself and invited the associations for talks on Thursday.
The Chief Minister said enhancing the wages by just 14.29 per cent (fitment as suggested by the Committee of Secretaries) would impose an additional financial burden of Rs 7,137 crore on the exchequer per annum.
The salary and pensions bill in the first seven months of the current financial year was Rs 36,005 crore, Mr Reddy pointed out.
But the state's own revenues fell from Rs 62,503 crore in 2018-19 to Rs 60,688 crore in 2020-21, he claimed.
"We are talking about pay revision but Omicron is spreading fast. We don't know what impact will it have and how it will affect our revenues. Are we in a position to take a decision (on pay hike) and go ahead," the Chief Minister asked.
"You (employees) should cut down your expectations a bit. At the same time, I am asking the officials to move their scale up a bit. Let there be some bridge somewhere," Mr Reddy said.
"In being compassionate and humanitarian, there are few who respond better than me. As a member of your family, this is my assurance to you...my word to you. I will do whatever I could do to the best of my ability," the Chief Minister sought to assure the employees.