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India: Workers seek wage hike
The Telegraph

August 16, 2011
View the Original Article


Aug. 16: Railway contractor’s workers in the city have demanded a hike in wages from the existing Rs 96 a day to Rs 205, under the banner of the Railway Contractor’s Workers’ Union.

According to members of the union, a circular issued by the Guwahati-based office of the regional labour commissioner (central) in April this year had fixed Rs 205 as minimum rate of daily wage payable for workers engaged in loading and unloading, cleaning and sweeping in the railways.

The revised rate came into effect from April 1, 2011.

The members alleged that they are being made to work for over eight hours and not being paid the revised wage.

“This is sheer exploitation of unorganised labour,” the president of union, Tapan Sarma, said.

“It is extremely difficult for the workers to sustain a living with the wage they get when the cost of food and essential commodities has skyrocketed. Most of the labourers involved in cleaning platforms and bogies, loading and unloading are working in hazardous and unhygienic conditions and without proper safety measures or medical care,” he said.

The union is affiliated to Citu.

Sarma said though these workers are working for private contractors engaged by the railways, the railway authorities cannot shirk responsibility as they are the principal employers.

“We have requested the railway authorities to look into the matter and issue a suitable directive to the contractors to pay the workers the minimum wage prescribed by the government, but our plea seems to have fallen on deaf ears,” he said.

There are 300-odd contract labourers under the railways in Guwahati. Contract workers are mostly engaged as porters and also in the cleaning wings.

“We work as loaders, sweepers and cleaners at Guwahati and Maligaon railway stations and pit lines under contractors, but we get only Rs 96 a day for over eight hours duty,” the union’s secretary Abdul Ali said in a memorandum submitted to the railway authorities recently.

Sarma said when government organisations like the railways are increasingly relying on outsourced staff, the contract workers should also be brought under the social security net.

“Some contractors who want to make more money exploit the labourers. The railways should protect them by asking the contractors to pay the specified minimum wage,” he said. Top