Lucknow: Workers from Gautam Buddha University in Greater Noida have been protesting for a week outside the institution’s gates after they were terminated from their jobs in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The university reportedly ousted close to a hundred contractual workers without any prior notice. The workers, who were engaged in sanitation and hospitality work on campus, were asked to not come to work from May 1. Suspension of work due to the lockdown was cited as a reason for them being forced out of their jobs.
The contractual workers were also denied salaries for the last two months, with the State Government paying remuneration to other such workers in different departments here.
Having been terminated from their jobs, the contractual workers, including those working for the university's construction office, plumbers and carpenters, have been protesting over the past week outside the administration block and the main gate. They have been demanding that they be re-appointed and that pending salaries for two months be released immediately. The protest was led by Gangeshwar Dutt Sharma, Noida district president of CITU (Centre of Indian Trade Unions) and secretary Ram Sagar.
A sanitation worker, who did not wish to be named, told NewsClick that the salaries of about a hundred workers, many of whom have been working at the university for 15 years, have been held back since April. “We are living under a lot of financial stress amid the COVID-19 lockdown," he said, adding that the workers have taken up the issue with authorities on many occasions, but they have not been paid yet. "We have submitted a representation seeking bills to be passed for the release of dues," said one of the contractual employees.
"We haven't got our salaries for the last two months. How will we survive? We are not able to feed our children," said Amit, one of the protestors. He said that despite the workers raising the issue on multiple occasions, their salaries have still not been disbursed yet.
The contractual workers who have not been paid include plumbers and maintenance staff, carpenters and sanitation workers, some of whom have not received salaries since April, others since May.
“Officials from Gautam Buddha University maintain that they do not owe us our salary, and that the issue is between us and our contractors. The contractors claim that their bills have not been cleared by university administration so they are unable to pay us,” said a worker at the protest.
The workers claimed that they were told on multiple occasions that their contract was only valid till March, and they would not be paid for April and May. “This is happening even though we have been working since the lockdown began. They need our services and then they tell us they can’t pay us,” said the plumber, who has not been paid since March.
CITU Noida president Gangeshwar Sharma said: “Hundreds of sanitation workers who have been working from the time the university commenced operations were permanent staffers, but they have been deprived of such benefits by the university administration and their contractors due to legal facilities provided under the labour laws. They have raised their voices from time to time but the administration did not pay heed," he said.
Sharma added that the workers were called for work during the lockdown but were not paid for the two-month period. “When workers reminded the administration of the labour laws and asked to be paid, they were terminated from their jobs. Since then, the workers have been sitting on a dharna in front of the university in the scorching heat, demanding a roll-back of the termination and their salaries,” he said.
The CITU leader said that the future looked bleak for the contractual workers, many of whom have crossed the age limit for appearing for examinations that could have helped them get other government jobs. Most of them are between 30 and 50 years of age. "If workers are not taken back in a week, we will be forced to conduct a big agitation with CITU workers," the union said.