Several hundred pourakarmikas gathered at the BBMP Head Office today to demand four months salary. The BBMP, which is the principal employer of these pourakarmikas decided to pay the workers directly from January 2018, and to rid the contract-system that was prevalent earlier. The biometric system that was put in place to identify the number of workers in the city, so that the BBMP can pay them directly has been ridden with discrepancies, thus creating a situation where powrakarmikas who turn up for work every day were marked absent and had their salaries cut. The State Government and BBMP also decided on a arbitrary ratio of 1 Powrakarmika per 700 population, a figure that does not work for Bangalore, thereby causing widespread fears of heavy layoffs across the city. All of these reasons caused anxiety and anger among the powrakarmikas, because of which they gathered in protest.
Speaking at the protest, Shankaramma, a worker from Mahadevapura spoke of how they have been denied wages since Dec 2017, forcing many of the workers out of their rented homes. Meghana, a worker from the eastern part of the city expressed her indignation at the continuous threat of layoffs from BBMP. She said everyday they are told people will be removed from work, but never told why or who will be removed. This, she said, causes a lot of stress.
In some other areas, BBMP officials have said those who joined work relatively newly will be laid off. However the criterion for deciding newer workers is the existence of PF numbers of the workers or biometric attendance. However what has happened is that the contractors had illegally withheld PF number o fmany workers, because of which now they are being told they will lose their job. Similarly for some older workers, because of issues with the biometric machine, they are being told that they will not be kept on the rolls.
Vanajamma from Banaswadi spoke of how even after the system changed from contractors to Direct payment, the way workers are being treated has not changed. Many health inspectors and other officials still harass workers and speak to them in singular.
Nirmala, secretary of the BBMP Guttige Powrakarmikara Sangha (affiliated to AICCTU) who led the protest, said it was humiliating and shocking that powrakarmikas have to protest to just seek their rights – of being paid wages for their work. She said that it reflected the casteist mindset of BBMP, which always ignored powrakarmikas who are almost all Dalit women. “While the BBMP Guttige Pourakarmikara Sangha welcomes the move by the State Government and the BBMP to pay workers directly, it must ensure zero involvement of the contractors, who are heavily influencing the biometric system,” she added.
Responding to the protest, the Joint Commissioner (Health and Solid Waste Management) Sarfaraz Khan held a meeting with the workers and the union leaders of AICCTU and discussed the grievances of the workers and how to resolve them.
Based on the discussion, Sarfaraz Khan addressed the workers and gave the following assurances –
- All pending salaries will be paid by tomorrow evening (April 21st, 2018)
- A team of BBMP officials will be visiting all zonal offices for the next three working days (Saturday, Monday and Tuesday) to disbursement of wages to all workers who haven’t been paid
- An assurance was given to all workers that there will be no reduction in the number of workers in the name of microplans or any other reports, and that workers will not be terminated
- All workers will be given uniforms, gloves, gum boots, masks, and advanced push carts will be provided to the workers
- Wages will be paid before the 7th of every month, and wage slips will be given to every worker from next month
- The BBMP has submitted a proposal to the State Government to include auto-drivers and loaders as pourakarmikas, as per the definition in Karnataka Municipal Corporations Act.
This article has been shared by BBMP Guttige Pourkarmikara Sangha, and has been published as is/with minimal edits under the Message Forward section, a space for non-profit, public interest messages from individuals and organisations.