Minimum wage is the one which provides not merely for bare sustenance of life, but also the preservations of the efficiency of the worker. The Minimum Wage Fixing Machinery Convention was held at Geneva during 1928 and the resolution of that was embodied in Articles 223 to 228 of the International Labour Code to represent fixation of minimum wages in the case of trades or parts of trades where such bonds are absent or wages are exceptionally low. The foundational aim of the Minimum Wages Act is to prevent exploitation of labour in industries.
Subsequent to the committee’s report, Government enacted legal provisions regarding minimum wages under the Minimum Wages Act, 1948. This Act does not define the concept of minimum wages but empowers the Central Government as well as State Governments to fix minimum wages from time to time. Wherever this Act applies, the payment of minimum wages is mandatory. In 1957, Indian Labour Conference elaborated the concept of fixation of minimum wages which were termed as need-based minimum wages.
The Minimum Wages Act enables the Central and State Governments to fix minimum rate of wages payable to employees in a selected number of sweated industries. The Act applies to the whole of India.
Objectives of Minimum Wages Act
- To provide minimum (statutory) wages for scheduled employments.
- To provide for maximum daily working hours, weekly rest and overtime.
- To promote the welfare of workers by fixing minimum rates of wages in certain industries where labour is not organised and sweated labour is most prevalent.
- To prevent exploitation of workers by ensuring that they are paid the minimum wages, which would provide for their subsistence and preserve their efficiency.
Scope of Minimum Wages Act 1948
The Act empowers the State and the Central Governments, as the case may be, to fix minimum rates of wages in respect of workers employed in the industries or employments listed in the Schedule of the Act, which contains two parts I and II, which are as follows –
(1) Part I – Part I includes industries or employments like woollen carpet-making or shawl weaving establishment; rice mill, flour mill or daal mill; plantation (any estate which is maintained for the purpose of growing cinchona, rubber, tea or coffee); tobacco (including bidi-making) manufactory; oil mill; local authority; road construction or building operations; stone breaking or stone crushing; Lac manufactory; Mica works; public motor transport; and tanneries and leather manufactory.
The Central Government has extended the application of the Act to a number of other employments which include gypsum mines, barytes mines, bauxite mines, manganese mines, maintenance of buildings and employment in the construction and maintenance of runways, China clay mines, kyanite mines, copper mines, clay mines covered under the Mines Act, 1952, magnesite mines covered under the Mines Act, 1952, white clay mines, stone mines, steatite including mines producing soapstone and talc, ochre mines, asbestos mines, fire-clay mines, chromite mines, quarzite mines, quartz mines, silica mines, graphite mines, felspar mines, laterite mines, dolomite mines, redoxide mines, wolfram mines, iron ore mines, granite mines, rock phosphate mines, hematite mines, loading and unloading in railways goods sheds and docks and ports, marble and calcite mines, ash pit cleaning in railways, uranium mines, lignite mines, gravel mines, and slate mines.
(2) Part II – Part II includes employment in agriculture. Agriculture, which includes any form of farming including the cultivation and tillage of the soil, dairy farming, the production, cultivation, growing and harvesting of any agricultural or horticultural commodity, the raising of livestock, bees or poultry, and any practice performed by a farmer or on a farm as incidental to or in conjunction with farm operations. (Including any forestry or timbering operations and the preparation for market and delivery to storage or to market or to carriage for transportation to market of farm produce).