Workers of Chennai Metro Rail Limited (CMRL) are being attacked and victimized by the management for fighting for their rights. In June, the management dismissed 4 more workers for participating in a strike in April 2019, bringing the total number of dismissed workers to eight.
Since the strike in April 2019 was called off, the management has been systematically attacking the employees including the office bearers of the Union for participating in the strike. 18 workers were suspended, 226 were given chargesheets for participating in the strike and the annual wage increment was cancelled for 126 people, for six years. The dismissed workers have been ordered to vacate the residential quarters allotted to them by the CMRL.
In January 2020, the Union had once again given a strike notice. However, the workers did not go on strike as the dispute was referred to the labour court. The Union has accused the CMRL management of using the circumstances of the Covid-19 pandemic and lockdown, to deny the workers a reasonable opportunity in the enquiry of the cases against them.
Although CMRL is a joint venture organisation of the central government and the state government, it does not have a well-defined promotional policy. The manner in which the wage-revision has been carried out has created a lot of division among the workers and officers, the Union leaders have pointed out.
The strike notice issued in January 2020 had demanded that the suspension of the workers should be withdrawn, the 35% allowance should be restored, a clearly defined promotion policy should be put in place and the management should stop outsourcing work. These demands were transferred to an industrial tribunal by the labour commissioner.
The metro workers have continuously opposed the outsourcing of works as it puts the safety of the passengers at risk. Earlier in December 2018, 8 employees were dismissed for submitting a memorandum against the move to outsource works of a permanent nature. The workers have also pointed out to corruption at various levels, between the top officials of the CMRL and the contractors, as a result of which the contract costs are inflated while the workers’ wages are depressed. All these factors precipitated the strike in April 2019.
The CMRL Employees Union has criticized the anti-worker attitude of the management. It has accused the management of withdrawing several welfare measures for the workers, even as it continues to victimise the workers. Fake allegations of “sabotage” have been leveled against the workers who participated in the April 2019 strike. The representatives of the management have not even been coming for the conciliation talks at the labour court, adding to the harassment of the victimized workers. The management is putting pressure on the suspended and dismissed workers to resign from the Union, with the promise that if they do so they will be reinstated. But the suspended and dismissed workers have remained united and refused to succumb to these intimidation and pressure tactics of the management.