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Kerala Electricity Board Employees End Stir After Successful Talks with Management

The protest by Left trade unions, mainly against deploying the State Industrial Security Force (SISF) at the board’s head office in Thiruvananthapuram, continued for six days.
KSEB strike

Image credit: CITU Kerala

Thiruvananthapuram: Kerala State Electricity Board (KSEB) employees called off their indefinite strike as negotiation talks with the management ended on a successful note. The protest by Left trade unions, mainly against deploying the State Industrial Security Force (SISF) at the board’s head office in Thiruvananthapuram, continued for six days. Four organisations of the workers and officers in KSEB formed a Joint Protest Committee and started an indefinite strike on Monday. KSEB Workers Association (CITU), Kerala Electricity Workers Federation (AITUC), KSEB Officers Association and Kerala Electricity Officers Federation were part of the committee. The employees and the management reached a consensus, after K. Krishnankutty of JD(S), the minister for electricity, intervened to hold discussions with the management and TU leaders. 

Protestors uphold freedom of trade union action 

Workers and officers in KSEB, under the banner of the Joint Protest Committee, had launched their indefinite strike on Monday, the immediate reason being newly imposed restrictions at the Vaidyuthi Bhavan, the board’s head office in Thiruvananthapuram. The KSEB management had decided to deploy SISF personnel and to introduce an entry pass appointment system for employees at Vaidyuti Bhavan. Management explained the new reforms owing to security concerns over KSEB’s load dispatch centre and the data centre functioning inside the head office premises. The trade unions opposed this move citing that the public enterprise’s head office should be accessible to its employees for their service-related redressals. The Joint Protest Committee also alleged that these moves were part of an attempt to curtail freedom of trade union action and questioned the rationality of imposing tight security at the administration block. The trade unions also organised state-wide protest gatherings regarding the issue. The protestors also criticised several other operational and administrative issues, including the pending promotions of more than 4,000 employees. 

The Joint Protest Committee alleged that the management imposed unwarranted reforms in a hurry, without considering employees’ objection. According to the order issued by the board, the SISF security and other reforms were supposed to come into effect on February 15. But soon after the Joint Protest Committee called for an indefinite protest from February 14, the management deployed SISF security at the head office on February 13 and warned the protesters of disciplinary action. 

Employees and management reach consensus 

Dr B Ashok IAS, KSEB chairman and managing director, along with other board members, held two separate meetings with the representatives of authorised trade unions and the officers’ organisation on Saturday. The meeting turned out to be successful as the management and the employees mutually agreed on limiting SISF security only to the load-dispatch centre and the data centre. The employees decided to end their protest as other restrictions were also withdrawn. The management assured to scrap all circulars banning the strike and warning disciplinary action against those who participated in the strike. An in-house redressal system will be formed in KSEB, to hold monthly discussions with the representatives of workers’ and officers’ organisations.

The management representatives also clarified in the meeting that the promotions of more than 4,000 employees were interrupted by the new provisions of the Central Electricity Authority's safety regulation. The management also assured a speedy execution of the promotion procedures, following the favourable verdict from the Supreme Court recently. 

Minister’s intervention proved vital

Electricity Minister K Krishnankutty’s meetings with leaders of the trade unions and the Left Democratic Front proved vital to reach an amicable settlement in the issue. The minister held discussions with LDF convener A Vijayaraghavan, CITU state general secretary Elamaram Kareem MP, CPI state secretary Kanam Rajendran, and representatives of the Joint Protest Committee, before directing the board’s management to go for talks with the employees and settle the issue with negotiations. The management officials gave assurance upon the demands of the employees in a meeting with their representatives on Saturday, following which the strike was called off in the evening.

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