For over a year, the agitation of contracted employees of two campuses under the leadership of Jadavpur University contracted employees union is intensifying in resisting various companies and contractors. For the past almost one year, contracted workers of Jadavpur University have been relentlessly protesting to quickly resolve various other issues including fair salaries, regularization of EPF and ESI. The minimum wage is basically similar to the wage structure of private institutions. The Union is determined that everyone receives salary according to the salary structure of government institutions, paid leave and maternity leave.
Although the Union gave deputations to the authorities since last April, it received only verbal assurance from the authorities on the launching of fair pay, EPF and ESI bonuses and regularization, paid leave, maternity leave and other democratic demands including other democratic leave, were given no heed. It is most illustrative of the sheer apathy of the University administration to the plight of the employees and how it mercilessly utilises the contract labour system
The relentless spirit of the student community to motivate the contract workers was praiseworthy. In the last year it had conducted a series of protests on the campus gates. Positive to again witness the integration of the student community to the fore with the working class, which is an integral part of a revolutionary movement. With influx of liberalisation and globalisation such a feature is hardly prevalent in campuses today.
After giving deputations in two phases last 7th April and 15th June, the university authorities were forced to hold the first meeting of the committee scheduled to solve the problems of contract workers.
Sameer Ram came to the 4 no gate on 14 July at 3•40 am creating trouble by abusing a security worker in filthy language and punishing him for forming a union. The Union launched a protest at the gates.
On August 15th the Union staged a meeting exposing he farcical nature of Independence where real rights had not been won by the workers.
In protest on 27th August a general meeting was called by the union., both the campus workers were present there and on the decision of the general meeting, we reached Arvind Bhawan by procession, the only demand is – all problems must be resolved immediately
After arriving at Arvind Bhavan, the Union contingent noticed that the Vice Chancellor, Co-Vice-Vice-Chancellor or Registrar of the University were not present and only Finance Officers.had arrived. The situation was exactly the same in the past days. It called the Deputation in front of the finance officer and the co-vice-chancellor. At first authorities were on the way to return with verbal assurance but were compelled to speak out when employees relentlessly defied them. After almost three-four hours of intense conversation they said the final decision would be made the following Monday.
The Union requested that the Vice Chancellor, Co-Vice-Vice-Chancellor and Registrar of the University should be present the following Monday and the final decision to issue the notice will be taken on the same day. Otherwise they would be forced to sit in indefinite positions.
The claims we submitted yesterday are as follows:
The Jadavpur University Contracted Employees Union presented the following claims, including the new issues they came to know about by talking to staff.
1) They have verbally informed us earlier that the University is not following the government memorandum 1033-F(P)2 The authorities should issue a written notice immediately on this matter.
2) Authorities verbally promised us that they will obey the minimum wage structure that the University authorities didn’t comply for the last six years. In this case from this month the salary structure must start PF-ESI-Bonus facilities for all, and within this month all employees will have to pay due area and arrears PF-ESi-bonuses from the first day of their working conditions.
3) In the last four months the union has made multiple demands through different deputations to the university authorities without salary structure, but the university authority has not yet yielded to anyone.. These claims will be implemented in the cob they will be informed in writing.
4) The university authorities will have to present the balance sheet of how much money they have paid to various companies in the last six years.
5) Many university workers have not yet received the salary of lockdown and Amphan due. They will get that salary within this month; this should be written to the University authorities.
6) Staffs with various contractor companies will complete trilateral meetings in Cobb, their date will be informed to university authorities in writing.
7) The university still hires workers under university contractors as daily contractors. Spending the day in their ultimate uncertainty. They have no EPF/ESI or bonus. Immediately they need to put together their daily wage framework and give them EPF/ESI or bonus and upgrade their monthly salary to the framework.General Maintenance’s 22 plumbers and 2 carpenters should immediately start daily registration.
9) Immediately, the workers under General Maintenance and other contractors should be given bonus according to their salary and pay the money 15 days before the Puja.
10) Maternity leave should be started for women immediately.
11) Sheikh Yasin one of the liftsmen working in the university is admitted to ESI hospital since last month. It has been heard since this month that preparation to trim him by hiring someone else in his place. We are not accepting this decision at all and no one should be cut off due to physical illness.
12) Identity cards must be issued for all contracted employees on behalf of the University Authority.
13) It has been seen repeatedly in the past that a main campus worker Samiran Ram has been repeatedly accused of attacking Balram Saha and other workers. Today we came to know that Shyamol da shop was vandalized beside gate 4 of the university and also beaten those who went to prevent it. We are not hearing any more verbal promises, if exemplary action is not taken against him within 48 hours we will go into intense agitation immediately.
The relentless resistance of last one year initially forced authorities to accept the union’s demands after long discussions:
Demands won were.
- Fair pay order will be implemented from this month for the employees observed by Man Power Agencies as per immediate Labour Department rules.
- Contractors monitoring Jadavpur contractors will be included in their monthly salary framework keeping aside the wages of various contractors and will be added to EPF/ESI and Bonus – the order will be passed by tomorrow.
- Maternity leave will be granted for female workers.
- A help desk will be opened immediately for the convenience of contracted employees.
But what we are particularly concerned is that the authorities are still not willing to recognise the general maintenance staff under the university and if they want time together we want to say it over and over again if not general maintenance staff within this week If our fair demand is accepted then we will go to a bigger movement in the future.
The leadership congratulated all the members of the union and students including those forces who stood by the movement or who are with the union. It pledged that it would leave no stone unturned in crystallising an Alternative Labour Movement in the future. Seeds have been sown to galvanise greater forces and knit a prolonged movement. The most important aspect is to confront the very system that perpetrates injustice. It is pertinent that the University still hires workers under university and daily contractors, minimum wages are still not given in practice. and authorities are still not willing to recognise the general maintenance staff under the university The futility of verbal assurance is lesson learned ad workers received political training in struggle. For a long duration the University authorities displayed utmost obstinacy in adhering to any genuine demand. A strategy will have to be devised to take movement from a rudimentary to a higher stage., to confront the contract labour system. The contract workers of the university have displayed resilience, ignoring their threats issued by the management goondas.
Harsh Thakor is freelance journalist who has covered mass movements around the country and participated in protests in Kolkata.