Pune: Garbage collectors delight when PCMC pays full wages after six years of struggle
After a long struggle led by members of Kagad Kach Patra Kashtakari Panchayat (KKPKP) within the confines of the Pimpri-Chinchwad Municipal Corporation (PCMC), civil administration-appointed contractors have finally paid the full minimum wage as per their instructions. KKPKP said on Aug. 7 that workers paid 17,015 rupees for a full 26 working days, instead of 12,845 rupees paid by last month.
“I am so happy that I called all of my relatives to announce this victory, that we have finally earned our wages, not only through our work but also through our struggles. Now I no longer have to send my son to work and can enable him to study without the pressure to pay, ”says Shital Giramkar, a garbage collector.
KKPKP said on Feb. 24, 2015 that the Department of Industry, Energy and Labor had created a new category under the Minimum Wage Act – “Employment under any local authority (except Gramm Panchayat)” – to determine pay for all contract workers. Since 2018, KKPKP has pursued their involvement, which would also affect at least 2,000 other contract workers such as toilet cleaners, drinking water tank cleaners, road sweepers.
According to the KKPKP, the Pune City Supplemental Labor Officer, by letter dated November 19, 2019, instructed the then PCMC community chief to pay all contract workers in accordance with the February 2015 notice. “The order issued by the ex-commissioner on February 12, 2020 to apply the new wage rates for all temporary workers from January 1, 2020, was not implemented,” it said.
KKPKP said on March 9, 2021, the joint secretary (labor) wrote to the commissioner of PCMC in response to the clarification he requested that wages must be paid to all contract workers in accordance with local government wages.
At the same time, as part of their lobbying work, KKPKP members reached out to all 125 elected representatives of the PCMC, 107 of whom supported the demand by writing to the mayor, commissioner and the chair of the standing committee urging implementation.
“On June 16, 2021, the LWO, PCMC shared the final order with the health center, PCMC clarified that garbage collectors will be paid as’ unskilled workers” according to the 2015 notice along with arrears from January 1, 2020 when the garbage collectors are paid is still unclear, ”said the organization.
Rekha Sapkal, another KKPKP member, said: “This increase was due a long time ago, but we’re still delighted that the PCMC has finally agreed to adhere to the official minimum wage. Just because we fought, protested and followed the issue, our wages went up, otherwise the PCMC would have continued to pay incorrectly. We will now be able to pay off debts due to the financial impact of Covid on our families.
Chaya Tribhuvan, board member of KKPKP, recalls the difficulties of the struggle: “This struggle started in 2012 when we started calling for minimum wage contracts instead of fee contracts. After long protests outside the PCMC, we suspended the illegal practice of non-minimum wage contracts. After that, we have fought for the last few years to ensure that our work is properly paid. I really don’t understand. If it’s the law, why do we have to keep fighting for our wages? “
She added, “This battle is only half won. We’ve been to court and will leave if forced to. The PCMC owes us money from February 24th, 2015, not January 1st, 2020. This is our rightful money that we made through our blood and sweat, no one can take it away from us. “
Shrenik Mutha, an activist with the KKPKP, said: “The letter from the LWO to the Health HO suggests that arrears be paid from January 1, 2020. Notifying its workers? Is there anyone in the PCMC who has been supporting the legal claims of garbage collectors since 2015, or do garbage collectors have to go to court again? These are questions that the PCMC has to answer. “