Close to 100 local trains have been cancelled in the last four days following the strike by motormen and rail workers in Mumbai. Backed by Central Railway Mazdoor Sangh (CRMS) and several other unions, the guards and Central Railway motormen have refused to work ‘overtime’.
The altered operations have been a nightmare for commuters of both the Central Railways and Western Railways. As per the reports, around 40 lakh commuters are witnessing a delay in the arrival of local trains.
Sources revealed that the guards and motormen are forced to work overtime because of the dearth of 139 motormen. The protesters have been urging the administration to fill the vacancies. Anil Maurya, a motorman, told Newsclick, “We are forced to work overtime because they don’t have enough staff. There are days when we work for 15-16 hours without a break. We are asking them to fill the vacant posts. Almost 229 posts are vacant because of which we have to work extra time.”
Besides, harsh punishments like ‘remove from service’ and ‘compulsory retirement’ have been given to motormen for an offence called ‘signal passing at danger (SPAD)’. As per the reports, SPAD is regarded as a serious offence pertaining to surpassing or overshooting a red signal. A motorman found to be doing this is liable to be dismissed from the service or perhaps, is asked to take a compulsory retirement. “We are poor people. We have a family to feed, daughters to marry. What will we do if we will be removed from service or be asked to take compulsory retirement? Previously, my brother was asked to do so. Now, we have made it a point that we won’t work extra hours, and have said that we will function under ‘work to rule’,” said Maurya.
As per ‘work to rule’, employees do not work more than the minimum requirement written in their contracts. Employees no longer work during breaks, or extend ‘unpaid’ hours. They would strictly follow their duties as per the letter of their contract.
After one-week-long protest, the authorities have negotiated and have withdrawn the punishments, following which, the motormen have started working, but they are still refusing to work overtime. “Yes, we have negotiated and harsh punishments like dismissal from service and compulsory retirement have been eliminated. But, we are still maintaining that we won’t work for unpaid extra hours. It is affecting our health. I couldn’t come to work for one week because I was unwell,” said another motorman, on the condition of anonymity.
As per the reports, average daily duty hours should not exceed six to seven hours, but the guards and motormen are saying that they are forced to work for more than ten hours. Chief Public Relations Officer of Western Railways, Ravinder Bhakar, was quoted by Mumbai Mirror as saying, “We are making every possible effort so that commuters are not inconvenienced. Since the past four days, a few services were cancelled during day time due to duty hours issue by crew. But we are trying our best to maintain punctuality in peak hours. Negotiations are going on, and we hope the issue will be resolved very soon.”