Days before Ambedkar Jayanti, sanitation workers’ Kachra Vahtuk Shramik Sangh (KVSS) union declared that workers’ provident funds (PF) worth ₹ 190 cr is yet to be deposited in their accessible accounts. Enraged by this revelation, around 600 Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) workers observed a two-day protest from April 12, 2022 at Azad Maidan, Mumbai.
Since their contract began in 2009, the BMC told sanitation workers in the Solid Waste Management (SWM) department that they will receive PF in the future. Accordingly, money was deducted from their wages. However, some workers said they received insufficient amounts in their account while others never got any such deposits.
The KVSS calculated that PF worth ₹ 190 cr was due from the BMC with each sanitation worker deserving PF worth ₹ 3.80 lakh.
“The money is either not transferred or deposited, and the worker has not even been informed. Still others say the money is kept in an account that is inaccessible to the people. We have repeatedly asked the BMC, where has this money gone? But now after such a long time, people have gathered in protest,” KVSS Organiser Anushka Damle told SabrangIndia.
Accordingly, protesters gathered on Tuesday and Wednesday to demand an immediate disbursal of funds, and an investigation into the matter. On the first day, they bagged a meeting with the Chief Engineer but were disappointed by his claims that he’d have to wait for approval from higher-ups.
Among those enraged by this delay was worker Sunil Bhima Kunchikorwe, who has been working for BMC since 2004. The veteran contract worker lost his right hand in an accident on January 15, this year. Despite PF and ESIC deductions, Kunchikorwe did not receive an ESIS card nor PF number. After the incident, he asked many ward officers for his PF details but was snubbed by authorities.
“He is without wages as he cannot work, and has no fallback arrangement to rely on,” said Ranade.
Many similar stories persist in BMC’s administration. However, on the eve of Ambedkar Jayanti, Kunchikorwe received some good news. The KVSS met SWM Deputy Municipal Commissioner Sangeeta Hasnare who provided his ESIC number. While, it is not known how much money is in the account, the gesture gives hope to similar workers who do motor-loading work, often without any safety gear.
“Hasnare assured us that she will look into the matter and workers’ PF accounts. By April 16, she promised to get us the court orders and all related information regarding PF pendency,” said Damle.
Further, the BMC promised to provide workers with the duty orders/slips to acknowledge their permanency in the BMC. Aside from this, the administration will also make the timeline to arrange for regularisation of workers as per court orders. The KVSS will get updates on all this by April 19.
With this, the union has paused its morcha and now waits for April 22 when the BMC is expected to provide as per court orders all necessary information for workers’ PF. Failing this, the KVSS intends to file a contempt petition against the BMC.