Kerala: Contract Workers of Southern Naval Command Face Apathy from Contractors and Principal Employer
KN Gopinath, the state secretary of the CITU, inaugurated the state conference of the Southern Naval Command Contract Workers Union (Courtesy: CITU Kerala)
The contract workers in the Southern Naval Command bases in Kerala are suffering at the hands of the contractors and the inaction of the principal employer. From delayed payment of wages, denial of notified wages and refusal of social welfare measures, the workers face multiple challenges.
The contract workers are recruited for works including housekeeping, conservancy and other unskilled works in the two bases, Kochi and Ezhimala in Kannur. The Southern Naval Command Contract Workers Union has alleged apathy from the contractors and the officials for the pathetic situation of the workers, despite several representations and disputes raised with the Deputy Commissioner of Labour (Central).
The contract workers are eligible for Rs 617/day wage, as notified by the Union government, which is revised every six months. The allegation of denial of the wage is prevalent among workers employed by several contract companies. The union has also claimed that the companies are not paying the provident fund (PF) deducted from the workers' wages.
The workers demand living wages as they are engaged in works carried out earlier by the regular employees, a one-month bonus, timely disbursal of wages and implementation of social security measures, including PF and employees state insurance (ESI).
‘UNDERPAID, EXPLOITED AND REFUSED SOCIAL SECURITY MEASURES’
The implementation of the contract labour system, even in regular jobs, has left several workers without minimum wages, job security and social security measures. Thousands of contract workers are employed by different contractors from various parts of the country in the two bases of the Southern Naval Command, headquartered in Kochi.
Speaking to NewsClick, CD Nanda Kumar, the general secretary of the Southern Naval Command Contract Workers Union, affiliated with the Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU), explained the multi-pronged challenges the workers face.
“Several workers are remaining as contract workers even after around two decades of work. They are refused the notified wages, the one-month bonus eligible to them and other social welfare measures,” he said.
Even more pathetic is the non-payment of deducted PF to the accounts by the contractors.
“The contractors deduct 12% of the wages from the workers. Instead of contributing 13% to their respective PF accounts, the contractors refrain from paying the amount to the accounts. This leads to a 25% loss of monthly earnings of the workers,” Kumar said.
APATHY IN ADDRESSING CONCERNS
The union alleged apathy from the principal employer in addressing the workers' concerns and the companies' failure to fulfil the conditions prescribed in the M-platform portal.
Kumar claimed that the companies do not have registered local offices and refrain from registering with the Central Labour Commissioner Office.
“In most cases, the contractors and the workers do not get to see each other. The workers are unable to raise their issues with their employer. The workers are on the losing side since the contractors terminate the contracts without providing any benefits to the workers,” he said.
When the workers raise concerns about delayed payment and other concerns, the union approaches the employer through email and letters. In the event of a lack of response, the principal employer and the regional labour commissioner are approached to settle the dispute.
“Even for conciliation talks, neither the contractor who is far away from the state nor the representatives of the principal employer turns up. At this point, 10 disputes are pending due to the apathy of the two concerned bodies,” Kumar said.
He also urged the principal employer, the Indian Navy, to pay the workers as per the Contract Labour Regulations and Abolition Act, Section 21(4), if the contractor fails to pay the wages on time.
The state conference of the union held on September 10 resolved to carry out a sustained struggle demanding living wages, implementation of a bonus act and urging the Navy to prosecute the companies ending the contract.
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