In what can be seen as merely paying lip service to its own benevolent requests, the Delhi government has “arbitrarily” cut the salaries of the contractual staff of the national capital’s public bus operator for the period of lockdown, when the transport service came to a halt, its union body has alleged.
Public transport operator Delhi Transport Corporation (DTC) has made full payments to its permanent staff for the months of April and May; however, the same has not applied to all of the contract workers, whose strength is close to 50% of the total DTC workforce.
“At many [bus] depots, pay of the contractual employees for the period of lockdown have been drastically reduced – this illegal deduction should be withdrawn immediately,” demanded DTC Workers Unity Centre (DWUC) in a letter dated June 2 to DTC chairman.
On March 22, while announcing a lockdown in the national capital, the Delhi Chief Minister had appealed to the private companies not to cut wages, saying “show humanity – don’t let anyone starve, continue paying people their wages”. Moreover, the pay cuts also violates the guidelines issued by Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) on March 29 which had talked about compulsory wage payment to workers during lockdown.
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NewsClick spoke to Naresh Kumar, 42, a contract worker in DTC, who confirmed the pay cuts. “For both months, I have received salary for only 15 days. When I raised this issue with my depot manager, he told me that ‘upar se order hai (orders are from above)’”, he said, adding, “I know of some contract workers in other bus depots who have received full salary; but others have faced cuts.”
Kumar was not sure of the possible reasons behind the arbitrary pay cuts.
Over the years, most of the contractual employees in DTC have reconciled with irregular wages – based on kilometre scheme – and absence of any social benefits, issues that have also been remained a consistent complaint of the union body. However, the non-uniformity this time in the wages even among the contract staff prompts further doubts.
“Each depot prepares a wage bill of the contract staff in a different manner. This shows the lack of clarity even among the government departments with regards to the economic security of contract workers,” said Rajesh Kumar of DCUW.
Furthermore, he alleged that the safety of the DTC workers – both permanent and contractual – is being compromised. “Not all of the workers are being provided with masks; also those who are provided are then asked to reuse it for many days. The drivers, conductors are not thermally screened. Forget hand sanitisers, even soaps are not available at bus depots,” he said.
Barring providing bus services to police, migrants and railway passengers, DTC buses were not allowed to ply on roads in light of the nationwide lockdown. It resumed its services for the public only last month in mid-May following easing of restrictions.
Abhishek of All India Central Council of Trade Unions (AICCTU) said that this is comparable to “playing” with the lives of the DTC workers. “Those who keep the city running are being treated this way by the Delhi government,” he said, adding that these are the workers who assisted the police, medical staff, and even migrants during the lockdown period.
It is shameful their own lives are not protected by the government and the salaries of the contract staff is being cut in a “blatantly illegal” manner, he added. It has been over a year now since AICCTU has approached the Delhi High Court, demanding equal pay for DTC’s contract staff.