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West Bengal Municipal Workers Protest Delay in Meeting Demands

The staff alleged that permanent work is being done by temporary and contractual workers, who are being exploited.
West Bengal Municipal Workers Protest Delay in Meeting Demands

Municipal workers from across West Bengal protested at the Kolkata Municipal Corporation on Friday against the alleged indifference and non-cooperation of the state government in fulfilling the long-pending demands of permanent and contractual workers and pensioners.

During the protest, attended by CPI(M) MP Bikash Ranjan Bhattacharya, CITU West Bengal general secretary Anadi Sahu and other leaders, speakers expressed concern over the long-overdue 13 demands of municipal workers.

According to a statement released by the Joint Forum of Municipal Workers, though the state government has been repeatedly informed about the problems and demands of the workers, no negotiations have been held to find a solution. Consequently, employees and pensioners are “suffering”.

The number of permanent staff in corporations and municipalities has steadily declined but vacancies haven’t been filled, the Forum alleged. Permanent work is being done by temporary and contractual workers, who are being subjected to injustice and deprivation, the Forum further alleged.

“These workers have no other benefits except a small salary. They are empty-handed by the time they retire at 60. The state finance ministry had issued a series of orders on salaries and benefits for temporary, daily wage and contractual workers. But they were not implemented by the municipality. As a result, temporary, daily wage and contractual workers are being deprived of the benefits announced by the state finance department,” read the statement.

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Despite rising inflation, workers and pensioners are being “deprived” of their fair share of compensation. “Arrears have accumulated by 31%.” 

Comparing the ruling Trinamool Congress government with the erstwhile Left Front government, the Forum said: “Earlier, workers and employees received dearness allowance (DA) twice a year. However, the TMC government is not paying DA. The Calcutta High Court had directed that DA should be paid within three months. During the Left Front’s tenure, a family member of a worker who died during service could get a job. The present state government’s labour department has cancelled that acquired right through an order.”

According to law, the Forum said, employees of various municipal corporations and municipalities should get gratuity and pension after retirement. But retired employees of various corporations, including the Kolkata Corporation, haven’t been paid gratuity and pension on time. “Pensioners are suffering financially.”

The 13 demands include an increase in the number of leaves of emergency staff, security measures for cleaners, medical claims for all employees, filling the vacancies, promotion on the basis of seniority and transparency and involving citizens in the development of municipal areas.

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The protesters warned of a big movement if the demands are not fulfilled. Sahu said that the “non-cooperation of the municipal authorities in fulfilling the demands of municipal workers and the inaction of the state government have caused anger and dissatisfaction”. 

“We demand that the justifiable demands be fulfilled immediately. Otherwise, the state’s municipal workers will be forced to embark on a larger movement and submit a charter of demands to the chief minister in Nabanna and the municipal minister in the Legislative Assembly in August. We will take out a rally of workers from Sealdah to Dharmatala,” Sahu added.

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