Vinay Sreenivasa of BBMP Contract Pourakarmika Union, talks to Radio Active 90.4Mhz on the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike not revising the payment of contract labourers, despite the hike in minimum wages that took place three months ago.
You would all remember our numerous protests over the past two years demanding increase in wages. Presently we receive little above Rs 7,000/- with which we are to pay our rent, food, education, health, etc. These abysmally low wages have forced us into a cycle of poverty and debt, which is never ending. It is to address this that our Union took up the campaign to force the Government to increase wages.
As a result of our protest, the Government has increased the minimum wages to Rs. 14,040/- with effect from August 2016 onwards. This victory is the result of our sweat, toil, strategy and struggles. Now our minimum wages including increased VDA is 14,439/-
However, it has been more than two months since this notified, but we are still getting old wages. Other cities like Dharwad have started paying the revised wages, why cannot the capital city of Bangalore? Every time wages are revised this happens, and most often we do not even get our arrears! The BBMP and the contractors conspire to steal our wages!
However, we have always held that only increase in wages will not solve all our problems. Passing order in paper itself will not fetch money to our hands. Another round of struggle is needed to actually get increased wages on our hands. We, the BBMP contract powrakarmikas, most of whom are scheduled caste, the Madigas and are predominantly women work from 6.30 am upto 2.30 am everyday to keep the city clean. Whether it is the rain or cold, we work and have been doing so for the past 15-20 years suffering at the hands of the contractors and their lackeys and the inconsiderate BBMP.
Hence we fight for dignity of labour and for provision of all basic facilities. Indeed, our Union had filed a case in the High Court demanding for toilets, drinking water, washing facilities, etc. Now we have succeeded in this as well and the State Government was compelled to order the following facilities to be provided to all contract powrakarmikas – Toilets, Drinking Water, Changing room , Brooms and other cleaning equipment, Gloves and masks, Weekly Holidays and Holidays for national holidays and festivals.
The Government has also mandated that payment of wages be made through direct bank transfer or through cheque, and under no circumstances by the payment of cash. Despite this, it is seen that, in some areas, payment continues to be made through cash and much lesser than the present minimum wages of Rs 7300.
Regularisation of contract labourers
The collective struggle of our Union and other worker Unions across the state forced the government to take the decision to abolish contract labour and absorb all contract powrakarmikas. After many years of struggle, the Cabinet of the State Government has taken the decision to regularise the services of all contract powrakarmikas across Karnataka by March 2017. The government has also passed an order mandating that the BBMP shall open an escrow account for the wages of contract powrakarmikas, reservation of 20% funds for their welfare, provision of housing, among other decisions.
Now it appears that the BBMP is trying to scuttle the decisions of the State Government. As per press reports BBMP intends to bring in cooperative societies and several NGOs are behind this. We demand that this be immediately stopped and instead the contract system be abolished and, pending regularisation in a shortest span, contract powrakarmikas be paid directly by the BBMP.
Hence we demand as follows:
- Immediate payment of revised minimum wages Rs. 14,439 to all contract powrakarmikas from the month of August 2016 and provision of all facilities mandated under the notification
- Declare full day weekly off and national/festival holidays for contract powrakarmikas
- All contracts should be immediately terminated
- Plans for SHGs or cooperatives, etc. be dropped
- All contract powrakarmikas should be regularised by March 2017 and our Union should be consulted in this matter especially in the framing of Rules
- Pending regularisation, BBMP should adopt the system of direct payment through bank transfer to the contract powrakarmikas
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