On September 24, hundreds of chartered accountant (CA) aspirants across the country thronged the Institute of Chartered Accountants of India (ICAI) offices, demanding the right to get their answer sheets revaluated. The students staged demonstrations and attracted media attention towards the lack of transparency in the evaluation process of the second largest professional body of chartered accountants in the world. However, amidst the students’ outcry, the voices of the ICAI employees went unreported. These employees have been protesting against the prevailing anti-labour measures of the institute for a long time now.
Well over 55 of them, who were employed at ICAI’s head office in Delhi, were “illegally” terminated in the month of August. Most of them have been working at ICAI for the past nine to ten years.
“No notices were served and the terminated employees were orally informed about the decision only two days prior by the management,” said one of the protesting employees. In addition to this, around 300 other ICAI employees are currently staring at a bleak future. They have been served with notices stating November 30 as the last day of their engagement with the institute.
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“The reason behind the sudden termination of ICAI employees is because the eligible employees started demanding bonus, gratuity and permanent status,” said Mohammad Aftab Alam, one of the ICAI employees who has been served with a notice, adding that, “the institute is set to replace the entire workforce to save itself from providing basic social security benefits to its employees.”
On Tuesday, a protest demonstration by the employees, under the banner of Delhi Office and Establishment Employees Union, was staged in front of the ICAI head office. The Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU)-affiliated union is also representing the terminated 55 employees in the ongoing conciliation proceedings with the institute. The union has demanded reinstatement of the sacked employees and provisions for social security benefits.
Established by an Act of Parliament, ICAI is a statutory body for regulating the profession of chartered accountancy in the country. The institute functions under the administrative control of the Ministry of Corporate Affairs.
Alam, who is a civil engineer, joined ICAI in 2013 and works in the planning front of the institute. However, contrary to what he aspired for, his job has been marked with zero allowances, lack of job security and unending work pressure, reasons for which are accrued to the presence of third party service providers.
“I was employed in ICAI through a contracting agency and not as a direct employee of the institute,” Alam told NewsClick. Such arrangement involving agencies allows the institute to deprive the employees of their social benefits and labour rights. The employees get a six month contract which gets extended depending upon the quality of their work.
According to Alam, on June 19, the previous contracting agency was replaced by a new one, again without any notice. The new contracting agency brought further anti-labour measures, by terminating 55 employees in the month of August and reducing salaries of others.
“I used to earn Rs. 38,000 per month, however, I was offered only Rs. 25,000 by the new agency,” Alam added.
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The reduction in salaries led to many employees leaving the institute by themselves. The others were served with changes in their contract period, which has now reduced to two months. The absence of a permanent job period has also allowed the institute to curb the voices raised by the employees against such measures in the past.
The protesting employees have extended their support to the agitating CA students. The students will hold demonstrations on Wednesday as well, which will be their third day of protest. The institute, in an attempt to control the students’ uproar, responded by posting a video earlier, in which the ICAI president acknowledges that the demand for a revamp in the process of evaluation is a long standing one. What, however, went unacknowledged was the rampant contractualisation of ICAI workforce and the ongoing struggle of its employees for their labour rights.