Demanding Wages for Last Six Months: Protest by Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) Civic Workers
Image Courtesy: Vinay Srinivas
Thousands of pourakarmikas (civic workers) of Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) have not received their minimum wage since January 2018. On July 12, 2018, five hundred civic workers gathered in front of the BBMP head office in protest and demanded they be paid the wages.
On April 20, 2018 few weeks before the state assembly elections, the workers, under the banner of Guttige Pourakarmikara Sangha (Contractual Civic Workers’ Union), had protested in front of the BBMP head office with the same demand. Sarfaraz Khan, the Joint commissioner (Health/SWM), BBMP, had met the protesters. Khan had said that he will ensure that the workers are paid by April 23, 2018 and also that they are provided with all the safety measures. Nothing has changed for the workers and Khan’s promises were proven to be false.
Civic workers employed by the BBMP were being paid Rs. 7,730 (including provident fund and Employee’s State Insurance Corporation). The Labour department announced on August 4, 2016 that the wages have been hiked to Rs. 14,040. According to the Labour department, this is the highest wage paid for the civic workers in the country. However the workers are far from reaping the benefits of receiving this wage, and Rs 14,040 has remained a mere number on papers.
This has become a nightmare for thousands of workers who work every day in hazardous working 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 past six months and was forced to take his children out of their school. He, on July 8, 2018 committed suicide, reportedly citing financial troubles.
Along with their wages for last six months, the protesting workers demanded justice for Subramani. They demanded a Rs 25,00,000 compensation for his family along with government housing and a permanent job for his family members.
Guttige Pourakarmika Sangha submitted a memorandum to BBMP. In this memorandum, the officials concerned are reminded of their decision on May 25, 2018 to ensure the payments be made by 7th of every month. Out of 17,709 contractual employees of BBMP, only a few have received some part of the payment and majority of them have not received anything. Workers still await the wage for the month of June and the remaining five months. The Union has demanded for an investigation into the reasons and the people responsible for the delay.
The Union noted in the memorandum submitted that the contractors resort to not paying the fixed wage but reduce the amount, arguing that the workers have failed to submit PF and ESI details; and the payments are made without providing wage slips. This is illegal. The protesting workers have demanded that the BBMP should do away with the contract system which has, according to them, given rise to corruption. Instead of a corrupt privatised contractual system the workers are asking for a system of direct payment of wages to the pourakarmikas.
The protesting workers also pointed out that the BBMP has made the worker citizen ratio 1:700 from 1:500. This has resulted in many contractual workers losing employment and has increased the workload on the workers. On July 11, 2018, many “excess” workers were removed. They protested these developments. In the demands submitted to the Mayor Sampath Raj and BBMP office bearers, the workers demanded for the enforcement of Anti-Sexual Harassment law in BBMP.
The Mayor who received these demands has said that Subramani’s family will be provided with government housing and will be given employment; however he was silent about permanent employment and the compensation. He agreed to initiate an investigation into the not paying of the wages, and also has asked for a list of wards in which the workers are not being paid.
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