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Workers Protest Dismissal of 2 Union Leaders at Durgapur Steel Plant Amid Agitation

Workers protested against what they deemed extremely arbitrary, undemocratic, and vindictive actions by the DSP authorities.

Durgapur: The Durgapur Steel Plant (DSP) temporarily suspended two union leaders from their jobs during the joint platform agitation of seven labour organisations, including the Centre for Indian Trade Unions (CITU), for a full-salary agreement. 

As a result of the suspension, the workers and employees on Monday demonstrated against what they deemed extremely arbitrary, undemocratic, and vindictive actions by the DSP authorities.

Protests were also held at ASP, Rourkela, Vilai, Salem, and SAIL's integrated and steel plants on the same day to oppose the dismissal of the two union leaders at DSP. 

Workers of SAIL's colliery division and workers of RINL also joined the protest.

Two union leaders at the DSP, who were demonstrating in support of their demands, were temporarily suspended by the DSP management on Friday. The management immediately removed them from their positions without giving them a chance to defend themselves, while also disregarding the Industrial Disputes Act and publishing a charge sheet beforehand.

Hindustan Steel Employees Union Durgapur Ispat branch convener Seemanta Chatterjee and HMS general secretary Sukanth Rakshit are suspended union officials. They are both members of the CITU.

Lalit Mishra, the general secretary of the Steel Workers Federation, sent a letter to the head of SAIL. In the letter, he vehemently demanded that the suspension be lifted. The letter includes both the whole wage agreement and the bonus claims. 

Further, there have been objections by workers against the use of biometric attendance. All units, including SAIL's colliery division, have written letters of protest to the chairman regarding these. The joint platform of unions vowed that it would not submit to "anti-worker laws". And thus, the conflict is expected to continue.

Although the salary agreement is applicable as of January 1, 2017, the arrears of 39 months have not yet been settled. RINL's workers have been deprived of the benefits of contract wages. Basically, the authorities have avoided the salary agreements of the contract workers. 

In the meantime, as Sharadotsav (Durga Puja) is approaching, the workers have demanded bonuses. Last year, the bonus amounted to Rs 40,500. The authorities are not making any promises about the bonus this year. The joint platform has claimed that the bonus will not be taken one paisa less than last time.

For the past one and a half months, the joint platform of seven labour organisations, including CITU, has been fighting for a full-salary agreement. Although the scale is given in the partial salary agreement, the authorities have created complications with various allowances and perks. Night Shift Allowance, House Rent Allowance, etc., have not been decided yet.

Moreover, the DSP authorities issued a circular on September 21 saying that the Radio Frequency Attendance System (RFID) has been made mandatory. This system will have chips, and employees can be tracked through chips. The employees' personal information will be embedded in the chips, which can later be used for nefarious purposes, the unions said.

 Along with the demand to withdraw the order of temporary suspension of the two labour leaders unconditionally, there has been a clamour across the DSP to cancel the circular for RFID.

The workers have refused to give personal information as directed by the authorities. At the same time, the joint platform has raised demand to start the modernisation and expansion of DSP and ASP. This work is also demanded to be started by solving the land problem.

Workers protested inside the DSP Maingate on Monday morning. The protest took place at the RMHP department. By 11:30 a.m., there was a huge protest in the design department as well. 

In the afternoon, all the workers marched and gathered in front of the ED (P&A) office. 

CITU Seeman Chatterjee, Rajat Dixit of INTUC, Shambhucharan Pramanik of AITUC, Snehashis Ghosh of INTTUC, Manas Chatterjee of BMS, Sukant Rakshit of HMS, and Vishwanath Mondal of UTHUS addressed the protest meetings. Biswaroop Banerjee presided over the meeting.

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