The Chennai Metro Rail Corporation (CMRL) is all set to be privatised in a full-fledged manner. The recent move has seen six of the Station Controllers who are permanent employees being replaced by contract workers in the same position redesignated as station-in-charges from the midnight of September 1. The CMRL is also planning to outsource 10 more stations to private companies, resulting in the privatisation of 50% stations of the total 32 stations.
Incidentally, the station controllers are the only permanent employees in the metro stations operated by CMRL. All other staff including ticket issuing staff, security personnel, housekeeping staff and even the metro train operators are contract workers.
No Training for Contract Workers
The contract workers appointed in place of the station controllers have not undergone any kind of training, allege the trade union. Elango, the vice president of CMRL Workers’ Union (CMRLWU) affiliated to the Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU) told NewsClick, “CMRL’s move to appoint contract workers as station-in-charge will endanger the passengers’ safety. The contract companies have not trained any of them in operating the stations.”
Also watch: Chennai Metro Rail Workers Forced to Protest Due to Contractualisation Policies
“The people appointed to the post of station-in-charges are handpicked by the contract companies without considering any of their qualifications. The companies have selected people to act as slaves with very low salary and don’t want to give any room for questions on minimum salary to be paid to them,” he added.
The station controllers were instructed to hand over all their possessions to the newly appointed temporary people. Even though the CMRL has assured they will be assigned with other jobs, the workers are highly apprehensive of their future.
Safety Concern Looms Large
As far as passengers’ safety is concerned, the permanent workers in the category of station controllers are trained personnel taking care of all safety issues in the metro stations. As per the website of the Delhi Metro Rail Training Institute, “The station controller is responsible for the station management, timely opening of stations, efficient working of all station equipment including AFC system, lifts and escalators, revenue collection, crowd management and operation of train control system from station control room.”
The website also adds, “both station controller/train operators being from the same cadre, are given common training including training in orientation, first aid, fire fighting, security, station management, rolling stock, signalling, telecom, automatic fare collection, driving skills, route learning/test track/simulator driving, general rules and procedures, communication skills and spoken English, customer orientation and soft skills, failure management, disaster preparedness etc”. Already, the CMRL has outsourced the job of train operators to private players.
The permanent workers of CMRL were trained in Delhi and Bengaluru after they were appointed to their positions. As per a report, they were trained for a duration ranging from 21 days to 45 days. But the present move of the CMRL to simply outsource the job which requires high skills, technical expertise and theoretical and on the job training has raised several questions.
The response of the CMRL management, as per reports, was that the move has been carried out as part of cost cutting measure.
Outsourcing at High Amount Costing CMRL
But, the workers of the CMRL allege that the companies, KCIC Private Limited based in Bengaluru and PCI Pest Control Private Limited based in Mumbai have bagged the tenders for appointing the station in charge posts. The workers also allege that these companies are close to the management of the CMRL and continue to enjoy huge benefits due to their close acquaintance with the top level officials.
Also read: Chennai Metro Rail Workers Demand Reinstatement of Dismissed Employees
Elango alleged, “The CMRL is paying Rs 65,000 to the companies as salary for the station-in-charge. But the companies pay a paltry sum of Rs 18,000 to the worker. This itself shows the nexus between the CMRL top level management and the contract companies. Not only in this particular case, in almost all other works allocated to the contract companies, large-scale corruption is taking place. There seems to be a revenue sharing mechanism existing among some officials and the private players.”
These allegations totally reject the claim of CMRL of privatising various operations to cut down the operating cost. Also, the amount fixed also raise questions on the high profits a few private companies earn on obtaining tenders. This also adds value to the allegation of the workers and trade unions of nexus between the management of CMRL and the private players.
No Permanent Employment?
A project with huge investments from both the union and state governments is expected to create good number of permanent employment. But the CMRL has a permanent workforce of about 250 while the temporary workers are 600 in number. This further adds to the criticism that of development without employment. With the recent data of the National Sample and Survey Organisation (NSSO) clearly indicating the steep increase in unemployment rates, the moves of such organisations further dampen the spirit of the young work force of the country.
Also read: Chennai Metro Rail Workers Continue to be Victimised by Management
Also to be noted is the dilution of reservation system in such organisations. The reservation system is followed only on permanent employment and not in temporary or contractual appointments. This further excludes the socially oppressed from getting jobs in such organisations. Such moves towards privatisation effectively results in exclusion of women, dalits and minorities in getting jobs.
No Ache Din for Workers
The privatisation move of the CMRL has raised questions of retrenchment of the permanent employees. The plans to further outsource many other stations will end up in surplus of workers. As per the claims of the CMRL, they may go further to retrench them in the name of cost cutting.