Report of the correspondent of Mazdoor Ekta Committee
Contractual workers of the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) in New Delhi face cruel violation of their rights, such as delay in payment of wages, various forms of discrimination including caste-based discrimination, and the constant threat of losing their jobs.
On September 18, a ‘Samman rally’ was organised by the contractual workers on the JNU campus to address these problems. The protesting workers raised problems of not being paid their salaries on time, making it very difficult to meet the daily expenses of their families. Sanitation workers highlighted the caste-based discrimination they face at the hands of the contractors and the university authorities. They spoke of the unavailability of safety equipment, protective gear and sanitiser, even during the Covid-19 pandemic. The absence of protective equipment for sanitation workers has posed significant health risks. Despite several verbal and written complaints, the department has failed to address this issue, several agitating workers said.
Workers pointed out to the abysmally low salaries they receive for long hours of work. A worker in the mess typically receives a monthly salary of only Rs 15,000 after two decades of service.
Most of all, the agitating workers feared for the security of their jobs. They narrated several cases of contractual workers who were thrown out of their jobs, for protesting against their working conditions, for demanding salary payment on time, equal pay for equal work and for the rights of all the workers. The threat of losing their jobs hangs over their heads all the time, preventing them from raising their voices against this injustice, they said. If a worker loses his job and has to look for another one, he has to pay the contractor Rs 40,000-50,000, for the same kind of job, with the same salary and same level of insecurity.
Since the early 2000’s, the JNU management introduced the contract system for its workers. Today, most of the workers in the mess, sanitation, security, and administration are hired through private contractors. These contractual workers are victims of severe exploitation, grave insecurity of livelihood as well as hazardous and difficult working conditions.
This is the condition of the workers who keep the campus clean and manage most of the essential services, in the administrative offices, class rooms, laboratories as well as the residences of the students and teachers, in this well-known central government university in the capital city.
The protesting workers are demanding that the JNU management recognise them as permanent workers and give them the statutory wages as well all other benefits due to them.