Jammu: The Jammu and Kashmir government will hold negotiations Thursday with representatives of 450,000 employees to find a middle ground to end a bitter scrap between the two sides over salary arrears and retirement age.
The decision was taken by a cabinet sub-committee late Tuesday and was chaired by Chief Minister Omar Abdullah.
The decision to open negotiations with leaders of government employees who were on strike for 12 days from April 3 to 14 came after the employees threatened to resume their strike. They even threatened to challenge the State High Court order that had declared their strike "illegal" on April 13.
The employees are demanding payment of arrears due to them from January 2006 to July 2009. The amount due to them has been calculated at Rs.4,200 crore. They also want a house rent allowance at par with central government employees and enhancement of the retirement age from 58 to 60 years.
The cabinet sub-committee discussed ways and means to address all these issues, according to a minister who is a member of the committee. "We are committed to honouring all promises made to the employees, but we need time and resources to do so," the minister told on the condition he was not named as he was not authorised to speak to the media.
The state chief minister had taken up the issue of the payment of arrears with union Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee in New Delhi on Monday, and had sought help from the central government to overcome the problem. He had told Mukherjee that the employees were to be given their due and that the central government should help the state as Jammu and Kashmir didn`t have the funds to make the payment.
Ram Kumar Sharma, president of the Employees` Joint Action Committee, said he and other leaders had received hints from the government about negotiations.
"We are open to talks and will settle the issue. We want the government to respect its word and give employees their due," Sharma said.