Loco drivers wage successful struggles against unsafe and unjust working conditions!

There is an acute shortage of loco pilots in the Indian Railways in all its zones. The management is refusing to fill up all the vacancies. On the contrary it is resorting to unsafe practices to run the required number of goods and passenger trains with the reduced number of loco pilots. It is also increasing the work load of loco pilots. Their present workload is already much higher than the railways’ own working hour norms.

High workload of a loco pilot and asking loco pilots to accept unsafe practices endangers lives of both passengers and railway employees.

Loco pilots have been demanding immediate filling up of all vacancies and protesting against unsafe practices. But the railway management has not been paying any heed.

However, when the railway workers unite and fight for their rights and safety of all, the authorities have no option but to bend before them. This was recently demonstrated once again, in two separate instances.

Victory in Mumbai Division:

On May 9th 2024, 50 Assistant Loco Pilots (ALP’s) reported sick and the goods train movements were stopped as a result for seven hours from 5 pm to 12 pm at the Kalyan junction of Central Railway (CR). Kalyan junction is the busiest junction of the Mumbai Division of the CR. As per rules of the Railways, every engine should have a Loco Pilot (LP) and Assistant Loco Pilot (ALP). This rule is essential for safety but the authorities have been violating it by asking one ALP to man both front and back engine in goods trains. How one person could be in two widely separated places at one and the same time should be explained by the authorities.

For the last six months, the All India Loco Running Staff Association has been protesting this unsafe practice imposed on them, but the authorities just turned a deaf ear to them. When an ALP refused to work in this way on May 9th, he was immediately suspended. This led to a mass protest by a majority of his colleagues. They gathered in the Kalyan Lobby demanding his reinstatement and stopping of unsafe practices by the authorities. This led to a massive pileup of goods trains. The ALPs had decided that if the Kalyan authorities did not listen to their demands, they would extend their agitation to Kurla and Panvel also.

The authorities had to remove the suspension order against the ALP and to agree to stop the unsafe practice of having only one ALP to man two engines.

The LPs and ALPs of the Kalyan, Panvel and Lonavala of the Mumbai Division had similarly protested in 2022, when the authorities issued a new Joint Procedure Order (JPO) which denied the LPs and ALPs sufficient rest. Their joint mass protest had completely disrupted goods train movement for 36 hours and the authorities had to quickly withdraw the JPO.

These actions by LPs and ALPs in 2022 and now in May 2024 show the strength of the united actions in being able to halt the anti-worker policies of the Railway authorities.

Victory in Ernakulam South (ERS) depot: The LPs and ALPs of ERS depot carried out an agitation for over a week from May 16 to 23, opposing the unjust extension of their route to Calicut Railway Station and Trivandrum Central Station. The authorities refused to discuss this new order with them, and arbitrarily extended their duty. One by one the LPs and ALPs reported sick when they were given the LR (Learning Road, which means getting knowledge of the track between the stations).

They declared non-cooperation and many of them, including the Branch Secretary, reported sick. When the agitation was intensified, one express train was delayed at Ernakulam North. Fearing further disruptions, the authorities agreed to suspend the LR issuance, pending further discussion.

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