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Chennai sanitation workers to go on indefinite strike!

Tired of contractual labour, workers write a letter to the city demanding job permanency with a stable income

Sabrangindia 18 May 2022

Sanitation workers
Image: www.groundxero.in


Chennai’s City Metro Water Supply and Sewerage Board (CMWSSB) on May 16, 2022 resolved to go on an indefinite strike to demand jobs permanency from the civic administration. Workers also informed SabrangIndia of delayed payments from last month leading to this dissenting move.

In an emotionally charged letter, the workers collective addressed the residents of Chennai and said, “Be it summer or drought, cyclone or flood, festive time or disaster time – if it were not for us, Chennai would not be inhabitable.”

As many as 1,884 CMWSSB workers released a joint letter to speak about how their ‘temporary workers’ status excluded them from benefits of labour laws such as paid leave, ESI, PF, pension, gratuity, etc. Moreover, their low wages barely allow for medical treatment of occupational illnesses.

“As many as 10 people have been severely injured while working this year. Around three drivers, two cleaners and five field workers have suffered injuries,” said CMWSSB leader S. Gopal, who has worked for the municipality as a contract worker for 10 years.

Workers are assured anything between ₹500 - ₹900 as wages. However, the contractual nature of the employment offers no financial security resulting in many suicides due to mental agony. Workers condemned the administration of arbitrarily deducting or delaying payments and failing to issue an ID card or an official employment certificate.

“We are in a sorry state of paying for the uniforms we wear out of our own pockets,” said the letter.

Workers have been engaged as field workers, silt vehicle drivers, jet rodding and super sucker vehicle drivers and operators for the last 2-3 decades. Despite a lack of safety gear, people have of clear clogged sewers without proper machinery.

As such, Shankar demanded that the administration permanently employ all contract workers with a monthly salary ranging between ₹ 18,000 to ₹ 20,000.

“Whenever the city’s centuries old sewerage system fails the needs of the public, it is we workers are called upon to instantly attend to their grievances.” they said stressing on the hazardous gasses and faecal matter, “There is not a day that goes by without us facing accidents or humiliations at work sites.”

Workers hoped the M.K. Stalin-led government would change the ground reality. Members had petitioned to Chief Minister Stalin, the CMWSSB’s Managing Director and concerned official K.N Nehru. However, despite assurances, there has been no improvement for the last two months.

As such, members appealed to the city’s students by saying, “We are keenly aware that at this time of the year you [students] would be struggling hard with exams, for a better future. We only urge you to spare some attention for the cause of our protest and help spread the word on social media. If possible, do support us by joining us at our picket as well.”

They also appealed to tax-paying citizens to appreciate the intent of the strike – to convey to the state machinery that contractual sanitation workers too deserve a life of self-respect and peace.

In Mumbai, the Kachra Vahtuk Shramik Sangh (KVSS) succeeded in providing permanency to 580 sanitation workers on July 7, 2021. The win after a Maharashtra industrial court’s decision came after 25 years of struggle. It ensured that every union worker earns ₹ 662 per day and a customary bonus, 21 day paid leave, weekly off, gratuity, health insurance, etc. Previously, they worked 10 hours every day for a daily wage of ₹ 55.

 

Related:

AICCTU leader Sucheta De removed from JNU campus!

Sanitation workers say ₹190 cr PF pending since 2009

Sanitation work, a means to an end: BMC employee Sunil Jagdale

Maharashtra: 580 sanitation workers made permanent on industrial court orders!

 

Chennai sanitation workers to go on indefinite strike!

Tired of contractual labour, workers write a letter to the city demanding job permanency with a stable income

Sanitation workers
Image: www.groundxero.in


Chennai’s City Metro Water Supply and Sewerage Board (CMWSSB) on May 16, 2022 resolved to go on an indefinite strike to demand jobs permanency from the civic administration. Workers also informed SabrangIndia of delayed payments from last month leading to this dissenting move.

In an emotionally charged letter, the workers collective addressed the residents of Chennai and said, “Be it summer or drought, cyclone or flood, festive time or disaster time – if it were not for us, Chennai would not be inhabitable.”

As many as 1,884 CMWSSB workers released a joint letter to speak about how their ‘temporary workers’ status excluded them from benefits of labour laws such as paid leave, ESI, PF, pension, gratuity, etc. Moreover, their low wages barely allow for medical treatment of occupational illnesses.

“As many as 10 people have been severely injured while working this year. Around three drivers, two cleaners and five field workers have suffered injuries,” said CMWSSB leader S. Gopal, who has worked for the municipality as a contract worker for 10 years.

Workers are assured anything between ₹500 - ₹900 as wages. However, the contractual nature of the employment offers no financial security resulting in many suicides due to mental agony. Workers condemned the administration of arbitrarily deducting or delaying payments and failing to issue an ID card or an official employment certificate.

“We are in a sorry state of paying for the uniforms we wear out of our own pockets,” said the letter.

Workers have been engaged as field workers, silt vehicle drivers, jet rodding and super sucker vehicle drivers and operators for the last 2-3 decades. Despite a lack of safety gear, people have of clear clogged sewers without proper machinery.

As such, Shankar demanded that the administration permanently employ all contract workers with a monthly salary ranging between ₹ 18,000 to ₹ 20,000.

“Whenever the city’s centuries old sewerage system fails the needs of the public, it is we workers are called upon to instantly attend to their grievances.” they said stressing on the hazardous gasses and faecal matter, “There is not a day that goes by without us facing accidents or humiliations at work sites.”

Workers hoped the M.K. Stalin-led government would change the ground reality. Members had petitioned to Chief Minister Stalin, the CMWSSB’s Managing Director and concerned official K.N Nehru. However, despite assurances, there has been no improvement for the last two months.

As such, members appealed to the city’s students by saying, “We are keenly aware that at this time of the year you [students] would be struggling hard with exams, for a better future. We only urge you to spare some attention for the cause of our protest and help spread the word on social media. If possible, do support us by joining us at our picket as well.”

They also appealed to tax-paying citizens to appreciate the intent of the strike – to convey to the state machinery that contractual sanitation workers too deserve a life of self-respect and peace.

In Mumbai, the Kachra Vahtuk Shramik Sangh (KVSS) succeeded in providing permanency to 580 sanitation workers on July 7, 2021. The win after a Maharashtra industrial court’s decision came after 25 years of struggle. It ensured that every union worker earns ₹ 662 per day and a customary bonus, 21 day paid leave, weekly off, gratuity, health insurance, etc. Previously, they worked 10 hours every day for a daily wage of ₹ 55.

 

Related:

AICCTU leader Sucheta De removed from JNU campus!

Sanitation workers say ₹190 cr PF pending since 2009

Sanitation work, a means to an end: BMC employee Sunil Jagdale

Maharashtra: 580 sanitation workers made permanent on industrial court orders!

 

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