As many as 6,000 contractual workers of Anpara and Obra Thermal Power Stations in Sonbhadra district of Uttar Pradesh have claimed to have not received full wages for the last four months. The workers said they would soon boycott work if their demands of wages and regularisation are not met.
Theka Mazdoor Union secretary Tejdhari Gupta said contractual workers of both thermal power stations would have no option but to go on strike or protest if their pending salaries were not cleared soon, as it had started taking a toll on their lives.
“Thermal power workers are suffering due to inordinate delay in payment of salaries. We also raised the matter with the Sonbhadra District Magistrate and Managing Director of Vidyut Utpadan Nigam several times but they did not pay heed. For how long can we work without pay? Our patience is now giving up,” Gupta told NewsClick.
Gupta, a contractual electrician at Anpara Thermal Power Station, who sustained injuries twice when he came in contact with a high-voltage live wire, said the authorities were not showing any concern for the safety of workers, who have been working without safety glasses, helmets, and safety shoes, personal protective equipment among other devices.
Since the past four-five years, power workers have been protesting for several demands such as safety equipment. Contractual workers should get the benefit of all high-level committee recommendations including work terms and conditions and honorarium; ESI (Employees’ State Insurance), EPF (Employees Provident Fund) and the “unjust and exploitative” working conditions, Gupta said.
Echoing similar views, Mohan Prasad, joint secretary of Obra Thermal Power Station, whose workers are also facing similar issues, told Newsclick that "more than 40% of the work is done by contract workers, too, especially dangerous work. But when it comes to payment, they are the ones who are unprivileged and face difficulties, be it life security, salary or medical facilities. It has become normal for us," he said.
Prasad alleged: “Arun Construction Company, a private contractor hires the contractual workers and his is the most corrupt company that continuously harasses us. We work for 26 days every month, but he shows us as present for only 18 days. Therefore, we get salary for only 18 days only. Nobody is taking cognisance of our grievances.”
Meanwhile, the union handed over a memorandum to the head of the management and the authority assured them to release the pending wages as soon as possible. They were also given assurance that salaries would be disbursed between the fifth and seventh every month.
The president of Workers Front, Dinkar Kapoor, who initiated the dialogue from workers’ side and had written a letter to government officials regarding pending wages, said: “On the one hand, the Yogi Adityanath government is organising ‘rozgar mela (job fair) across the state, while on the other hand, they (the government) are taking work from workers and not paying their wages, which is a violation of Article 21 (to deprive such persons who help in realisation of fundamental right. It is also called bondage culture.”