Cleaning staff on strike over bonus, railwaly station a mess

From the past two days, conservancy workers at Pune Railway Station have stopped work to protest against unpaid bonus, which was earlier assured by their contractor. With 130 workers deciding not to clear the rubbish, filth on the tracks, toilets and platforms is piling up, impelling commuters to make their way through the collected garbage.

The dirty picture: Discarded paper and plastic at a staircas

Moreover, with the railways introducing special holiday trains to beat the Diwali rush, and thousands of commuters thronging the station, it is starting to resemble a dump yard.  “According to the contract, we should get one month salary as bonus. Until last year we used get our bonus on time. But this year without any reason the contractor has refused to pay. Workers get Rs 260 per day, which works to Rs 6,760 per month for 26 working days. It is our right to get the bonus on time, and till we are not paid, we will not work,” said Shobha Jadhav, president Rail Theka Majdoor Union. 

The striking workers

The railways have washed their hands of the mess, pinning the responsibility on the contractor. “Contractor SIGMA agency handles cleanliness work of the station. We have cleared all payments to that agency. So the workers and agency should resolve the issue among themselves. The railway administration cannot do anything,” said Y K Singh, spokesperson, Pune Railway Division.

“Sanjay Gayakwad is the main contractor and head of SIGMA. This agency was appointed in 2010. We have many grievances with them since the last two years. We don’t have uniforms and other facilities,” Jadhav added.

Who are protesting against non-payment of bonus; the tracks are resembling a rubbish dump and raising a stink. Pics/Krunal Gosavi

Despite several attempts, Gayakwad was not available for comment. When Amol Hajare, field officer of SIGMA was instead contacted, he said, “The agency had assured payment of bonus to the workers. But due to some financial constraints, they are unable to pay them. Gayakwad and the workers have filed a case in the labour court. A decision is expected in the next two days.” 

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