The paurakarmikas (civic workers) of Bengaluru gathered in large numbers in front of the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP ) head office at corporation circle on December 12, 2018, in protest. They protested against the ruthlessness of the BBMP officials towards the workers.
The civic workers in the city have been very vocal about the negligence of the municipality and the ill treatment meted out to them by contractors. On not being paid wages for six months the workers on April 20, 2018, had protested. Sarfaraz Khan, the Joint Commissioner (Health/SWM), BBMP, had met the protesters. Khan had said that he would ensure that the workers were paid by April 23, 2018. The commissioner, however, did not fulfill his promise, which forced the workers to protest again on July 12, 2018. This time, as in April, the workers are also demanding abolishment of the contract system.
After many such struggles in the past, as the press note of the Guttige Pourakarmikara Sangha (Contractual Civic Workers Union) affiliated to AICCTU noted, the BBMP was compelled to abolish the contract system and take the contract workers on their rolls making direct payments to them. However in the protest on Wednesday, the workers claimed that contractors continue to meddle in BBMP matters, especially related to their payments, by creating “huge hurdles in the implementation of this decision of direct payment.” Yet again, the workers are not being paid their due wages on time and, as per the union, workers have not been paid for two-three months in some areas.
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The protesting workers had put forth the following demands :
1. Malfunctioning of biometric system should be set right. Arbitrary deductions in salaries of workers due to such malfunctioning must be addressed.
2.workers must be paid their dues.
3. All workers with below one year experience and above 60 years of age have not been paid salaries despite having worked. Their dues must be paid and they must be reinstated in their jobs.
4. All workers must be given ESI and PF facilities.
5.All erring BBMP officials and contractors must be penalised.
6. All drivers, helpers and loading/unloading workers must be paid their dues. Contract system must be abolished and these workers must also be paid directly by BBMP.
The other demands raised in the protest included the provision of weekly holidays and other holidays, provision of toilets, drinking water, push carts, brooms, safety equipment, etc. which are still being denied to the workers.
Delayed Payment of Wages Continue
According to a report in The Hindu, the salaries of the pourakarmikas across Karnataka have been nearly doubled and, according to Labour Department officials, the pourakarmikas of Bengaluru are among the highest paid in the country. Civic workers employed by the BBMP were being paid Rs. 7,730 (including provident fund and Employee’s State Insurance Corporation). The Labour department also announced on August 4, 2016, that the wages have been hiked to Rs. 14,040. However, this amount never reaches the workers. This has become a nightmare for thousands of workers who work every day in hazardous conditions to keep the sprawling city clean. Subramani was one such civic worker from Ward number 77- Dattatreya Temple, who had not received payments for six months and was forced to pull out his children from school. On July 8, 2018, he committed suicide, reportedly citing financial troubles.
Also Read: Demanding Wages for Last Six Months: Protest by Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) Civic Workers
The union had organised a protest on July 12, before the BBMP and the then Mayor Sri Sampath Raj and Commissioner Sri Manjunath Prasad “had addressed the gathering and publicly announced that no worker will be retrenched, despite the same, workers in several wards are being denied employment on the same grounds and have not been paid wages for six months” the union said. The protesting workers on Wednesday brought the arbitrary retrenchment of several pourakarmikas on the grounds that they had crossed 60 years of age, to the BBMP’s notice.
Nirmala M., general secretary of the union, demanding to put an end to delayed payment of wages noted, that the workers must be paid wages regularly before the 7th of every month and wage slips must be issued every month as statutorily mandated.
Sarfaraz Khan made new promises, the union said, adding that assured the workersthat they would get their due wages in the coming week and agreed to pay wages by the 7th of every month. On weekly off and other holidays, he said “that the BBMP commissioner, has already issued a circular mandating the same, and despite this, officials at the zonal level have failed to comply with it.”
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The union also alleged that in some wards, pourakarmikas were being forced by the supervisors and health inspectors to do loading and unloading of garbage in addition to sweeping. In this regard, “Khan clarified that the work of pourakarmikas was only to sweep and that disciplinary action would be taken against any supervisor or health inspector who compel workers to do the loading and unloading work.”