TN: Sanitation Workers Protest Outsourcing in Local Bodies, Demand Permanent Jobs
Workers led by the Red Flag Union of the sanitation workers in front of Greater Chennai Corporation.
Thousands of sanitation workers blocked roads across Tamil Nadu on July 12 against the steps taken by the state government to outsource works to the local bodies. Under the guise of reforms, permanent jobs in the urban local bodies will become non-existent, given the fast pace of outsourcing, with the state government issuing three government orders (GO) for the same.
When the workers employed under different schemes demand permanent jobs, the government pursues the opposite path by contractualising and outsourcing the work.
A vast majority of the sanitation workers belong to socially oppressed communities like scheduled caste (SC) and most backward communities (MBC), and the outsourcing of work will refuse them permanent jobs and social security.
Even as the workers urge the government to withdraw from outsourcing the work, a government order issued on June 16, revising wages for workers after six years, has kept the minimum wage unchanged. Even worse, a new worker would draw a lower wage than the present minimum wage due to the possible reduction in the dearness allowance (DA).
The Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU) has urged the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) government to withdraw from outsourcing works and GO revising the wages.
SOCIALLY OPPRESSED WILL SUFFER
The sanitation works in corporations, municipalities and town panchayats are being outsourced at a fast pace, creating insecurity among the workers. The state government, through the local bodies, have invited tenders for carrying out sanitation works. Three GOs have been issued so far to initiate the process.
If outsourced, the workers with permanent jobs ensuring social welfare measures would become history. With most workers belonging to socially oppressed communities, their job security and right to an honest living will also be affected.
"Three GOs, 139, 150 and 10, have been published to privatise sanitation works in the local bodies. There would be no permanent jobs in the important department catering to the needs of the people," C Thiruvettai, state secretary of the CITU, told NewsClick.
Sanitation workers blocking roads in Tirunelveli district as part of the protest. (Courtesy: CITU Tamil Nadu)
The CITU has been demanding the implementation of DMK's poll promise of abolishing the contract system in government departments and ensuring permanent jobs. The other demands of the workers included permanent jobs for workers in nominal muster roll (NMR) and National Urban Livelihood Mission (NULM), domestic breeding checkers (DBC), workers employed under a daily wage scheme and through self-help groups.
"More than 95% of the sanitation workers belong to the SC and MBC communities. The minimum assured wage and social security will be snatched away from the workers. Instead of retaining the workers in the schemes, the corporations and municipalities should allocate funds from the budget," Thiruvettai said.
Workers protesting in front of the District Collector’s office in Kanniyakumari
'WAGES WILL BE REDUCED'
The GO published on June 16 by the labour welfare and skill development department under the Minimum Wages Act 1948 for revision of minimum rates of wages for workers under local authority has shocked the workers.
The revision due every five years was delayed by a year for want of recommendation from a committee set up by the state government.
“The earlier revision was executed on October 11, 2017, and this new order has been published after a delay. One shocking aspect of the GO is the retention of the same basic pay for all categories of unskilled, semi-skilled and skilled workers,” KC Gopi Kumar, state secretary of CITU, told NewsClick.
Another issue flagged by the CITU is the negative revision in the DA. The DA is linked to the average Chennai city CPI for 2010 at 161 points, and for every one-point increase, the worker will be paid Rs 31/month.
“By natural justice, the new wages must be higher than the already drawn wage, but a worker will receive only Rs 31 instead of Rs 37.25 being paid now. This amount will vary based on the type of local body and basic pay. This is another injustice meted out to the workers, and we urge the state government to withdraw this order itself,” Gopi Kumar said.
Employment in the local bodies was categorised under four heads: corporations, municipalities, town panchayats, panchayat unions and district panchayats. The GO issued has incorporated a new section, namely employment under village panchayats.
Kumar alleged the state government of fixing a basic salary of a meagre Rs 5000 for unskilled workers in village panchayat.
“This new category itself is not required since this can be brought under the block and district panchayats,” he added.
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