Sanitation workers of Meerut Municipal Corporation, who are on strike since September 9 demanding a hike in honorarium, on Thursday threatened to convert the protest into a massive movement if their demands were not met.
“If the administration tries to create unnecessary pressure on the sanitation workers to withdraw their strike, then they will convert their peaceful protest into a national issue,” said Vikrant Sharma, secretary of All India Cantt Board Employees Federation.
The workers have been on strike since Wednesday to push their demand for an increase in wages to Rs 14,990/month. The agitating employees have refused to pick up garbage from neighbourhoods to protest the non-payment of salaries and pending arrears.
"The 7th Pay Commission was introduced in January 2016 but it was never implemented. The sanitation workers here still receive the old arrears. Those who retired in 2014 haven't received any commutation, and those who retired in 2018 have also not received a single rupee from the government," Sharma said.
Meanwhile, municipal workers, a majority of whom are sanitation workers, also continued to strike work for the sixth day on Thursday, demanding revocation of an order allowing privatisation of sanitation maintenance work and giving the right of employing workers to contractors.
With only a few permanent sanitation workers on its rolls, the Meerut Municipal Corporation is now struggling to clean up the city. Most of the dumper bins are overflowing with garbage and households are also feeling the heat with no door-to-door garbage collection.
Read More: Uttar Pradesh: Sanitation Workers In 27 Districts Protest Against Privatisation
"There are two types of privatisation of services here. The task of collecting garbage door-to-door has been given to a private contractor, while the operation of water pumps and tanks has also been outsourced,” said Sharma, adding that sanitation workers were being exploited by their contractors and not given daily wages. “They are paid only Rs 6,000-7,000 a month instead of Rs 14,000," he said.
The protesting workers are also demanding jobs for the kin of all those sanitation workers who have died on the job.
Former councillor of Chawni Parishad, Meerut Jagmohan Shakal, told Newsclick, "The number of sanitation workers under the new contractor was significantly low. Only 400 workers were doing the work earlier carried out by 800 workers. As a result, individual workload had considerably increased while there was no change in the salary structure. The government is not advertising any permanent post and while private contractors are increasing manpower and exploiting the workers. This is happening right under the nose of the government."
The former councillor alleged that in the name of safety gears, the sanitation workers were only getting gloves. He said several sanitation workers had died in the recent past.
Meanwhile, the district authorities said that the corporation's administration had served notices to the protesting workers for not reporting to work. There were reports that contracts of a few sanitation workers had been terminated and notice had been served to three leaders of sanitary workers.
This is not the first time that sanitation workers are complaining about pending dues and privatisation. Last July, too, the workers went on a strike highlighting the huge risks of working under contractors, no assurance of minimum wages, no safety measures, among other things.
“This time the workers have decided to continue the strike until the due salaries are paid in full to all. This time we are not going to be fooled by fake promises”, said Kanti, a sanitation worker.