Kerala: ICPS Employees Begin Indefinite Strike, Demand Quicker Renewal of Annual Contracts
The employees protesting in front of the Directorate of Women and Child Welfare in Thiruvananthapuram as part of the indefinite strike. (Image Courtesy: Deepa K)
The employees of the Integrated Child Protection Scheme (ICPS) in Kerala are on an indefinite strike in Kerala from June 1. The workers have alleged bureaucratic apathy, leading to the delay in the renewal of the contract every year, resulting in the refusal of maternity, medical and earned leaves.
The workers apply for contract renewal at least two months before it ends and are forced to work as daily wagers until the Department of Women and Child Development (WCD) approves, leading to loss of wages and leave benefits. The delay is attributed to the denial of permission for society to function fully.
The Kerala ICPS Employees Union (KICPSEU), affiliated to the Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU), has demanded the state government restore the amount paid to the workers to ensure minimum wage, which stands withdrawn now.
Around 250 workers in different positions across the 14 districts are appointed on contract as per the guidelines of the Juvenile Justice Act, 2009. The ICPS extends different services and schemes focussing on child development, protection, child line and juvenile justice.
The employees of the ICPS are appointed on contract every year, and the contract is renewed every year after a gap of one day. However, the approval for renewal gets held up for months.
"The employees apply for renewal a couple of months before it ends through the district child protection office (DCPO). But it gets stuck in the bureaucratic process, and at times it takes months for approval,” Deepa K, the general secretary of the KICPSEU, told NewsClick.
ICPS Employees on protest in Malappuram district (Image Courtesy: Deepa K)
The employees have been demanding the department of WCD complete the renewal process so that they can continue as contract employees.
"Until the contract is renewed and the order is issued, we are considered daily wage workers. During this period, we are not eligible for maternity, medical and earned leaves. This leads to financial loss and mental agony for employees,” Deepa said.
The workers held dharnas and token strikes on May 15, seeking speedy solutions to the issues they raised. Though the Department of WCD and Health held talks with CITU on the demands, nothing positive has turned out, forcing the workers to begin an indefinite strike.
Deepa accused the process of juvenile cases of being prolonged due to the delay in the renewal of contracts for the employees. "The act was enacted to ensure a speedy solution to the juveniles rather than punishing them through the Criminal Proceedings of the Indian Penal Code. The process itself is hampered due to administrative issues,” she said.
The CITU had demanded the government convert the board into a society to facilitate the speedy renewal of contracts and ensure the smooth conduct of the ICPS. "The society has to hold its executive at least once a month. Such an exercise would help quicken the process, and the leave benefits would be assured,” Deepa said.
CITU State Secretary, K N Gopinath, speaking to NewsClick, demanded the state government intervene immediately to end the strike. "The state government cites a lack of fund allocation from the union government. But the fund available from the state pool is sufficient to pay the 250 workers of ICPS,” he said.
In addition, the government has slashed the additional pay provided to a few of the 16 categories of workers to ensure they receive the minimum wage prescribed by the government of Kerala.
"The withdrawal of this amount has led to the loss of wages up to Rs 10,000 to a few employees. With frequent travel requests to hold inquiries and field visits, we spend a lot on travel expenses. We take home around Rs 7,000 to Rs 8,000 due to this,” Deepa claimed.
CITU State President, Anathalavattom Ananthan, speaking to NewsClick, said, "The decision for a society to run the ICPS was taken in 2017 itself, but has not come to effect. Ensuring the functioning will end the renewal problems faced by the workers,”
The workload of the employees in ICPS is set to increase, as the new guidelines mandate the childline to be handled by them instead of NGOs.
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