People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)


No. 36

September 04, 2011


 Casual, Contract Workers Hold Dharna


V A N Namboodiri


AS per the call of the Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited Casual and Contract Workers Federation (BSNLCCWF), a big dharna of casual and contract workers took place on August 26 in the BSNL corporate office premises in Delhi. About 1000 workers from almost all the states participated.


There are about one lakh casual and contract workers engaged in the Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL). These workers are being employed to work in cables, lines, office, towers, data entry and so on. They are being exploited by both the management (the principal employer) as well as the contractors. The main demands raised in the dharna were for regularisation of the casual labour, payment of wages on IDA scales to casual labour instead of CDA wages, implementation of minimum wages and social security measures like EPF and ESI, and also no victimisation and no retrenchment.


Numbering about 4,000, the casual labour in the BSNL are engaged since prior to 1998, and they were given the assurance that they would be regularised to the extent of vacancies available when they complete 240 days of work in a year without any break. An agreement was made at the time of corporatisation of the BSNL in 2000 that all the left-out casual labour, on fulfilling the required conditions, would be absorbed in BSNL by regularising them. About 4,000 of them were indeed regularised, but still another 4,000 still continue to work as casual labour. Out of these, 2,270 are from West Bengal alone. While casual labour were regularised to some extent in all states, not even a single worker was regularised in West Bengal. Some of them are compelled to work as contract workers. The management is refusing to regularise them on the plea of a Supreme Court judgement. But on the basis of the same Supreme Court judgement, the departments of income tax, customs, central excise, posts etc have regularised their casual labour. Even after continuously working for more than 10 or 15 years, these causal workers are still denied regularisation.


At present, the casual labour are being paid daily wages at 1/30th of the wages of the group D of the central government employees, i.e. at the CDA scale. They are working in the BSNL, a public sector undertaking, where the Industrial Dearness Allowance (IDA) pattern of wages, which are higher, exists. But the BSNL management has been refusing to implement the IDA wages.


After a sustained struggle, during which the issue was also brought to the notice of the parliamentary standing committee on labour, the BSNL management issued an order to pay minimum wages to the contract workers based on the notification of the government of India or that of the state government, whichever is higher. But except in very few places, the order has not been implemented. Only about 50 per cent of the minimum wages are being paid in most of the places. While it is incumbent on the principal employer to ensure full payment of wages, the management is shutting its eye to this injustice.


Again, after a serious agitation, the corporate office issued orders regarding deduction of contribution towards the Employees Provident Fund (EPF) and Employees State Insurance (ESI) from the workers’ wages and opening of their accounts. But these have not yet been implemented, causing a great loss to the workers. In some cases, workers have gone to an industrial tribunal or labour court, and the management has been asked to pay crore of rupees towards payment to EPF. Still the management is not taking necessary action.


After the formation of the Casual and Contract Workers Federation and its agitations, leaders of the Federation at many places are being denied work. When the payment of minimum wages is insisted upon, the contractor reduces the number of workers, resulting in loss of job.


These were the main issues focussed by the dharna that was organised on August 26.


CITU general secretary Tapan Sen inaugurated the dharna. He extended full support to the demands of the workers and urged upon them to strengthen the organisation and continue their struggle. He said the government has been aggressively implementing the neo-liberal policies and, as a result, attacks on workers are mounting. The entire trade union movement in the country has been continually organising struggles against the anti-worker policies. Sen informed that an all-India convention called by the central trade unions would be held at Mavlankar Hall on September 7 to chalk out further programmes of action.


BSNLEU & BSNLCCWF president V A N Namboodiri, BSNLEU general secretary P Abhimanyu, BSNCCWF secretary general Tapas Ghosh and other leaders also addressed the dharna. A memorandum on the demands of the workers was submitted to the BSNL management and discussed.


The all-India conference of the BSNLCCWF, which will be held at Lucknow on September 24 and 25, will review the situation and chalk out further programmes.