At the risk of disrupting the metro services, around 130 employees of Chennai Metro Rail Limited (CMRL) are on a sit-in protest in front of its Managing Director’s office, demanding a meeting with him.
According to CMRL sources, the sit-in strike is due to the company’s decision to dismiss eight employees for allegedly supporting a letter written to the company by Soundararajan, the State President of CITU (Centre of Indian Trade Unions) in November 2018.
Speaking to TNM, Vasanth*, an employee of the company and one of the participants in the strike, said that the permanent employees of the company started an employees union in June-July last year because they wanted a body to voice out their grievances.
“The CMRL has employed some people on outsourcing and contract basis. While these contract employees are being paid more than Rs 60,000 per month, the permanent employees are being paid less than Rs 30,000 a month,” he said.
In November, Soundararajan had written to the CMRL, stating that outsourcing labour is a waste of money while they can get cheaper, trained employees by recruiting permanently. Vasanth said that the letter was written on the letterhead of the union, which bore the names any of the office-bearers of the union. These office-bearers, however, did not sign the letter.
“CMRL suspended the office-bearers on April 3. None of them were signatories to that letter. It was a letter sent by Soundararajan for the welfare of the employees and their families. We heard that CMRL is dismissing these employees on Monday,” he said.
Although the employees had requested a meeting with the Managing Director of CMRL to discuss the issue, the latter reportedly refused to meet them. “He said that he will meet only executives and not us. So we are sitting outside his office so that if he has to go out, he has to go past us,” Vasanth told TNM.
Vasanth further accused the top officials of the CMRL of trying to shield the corrupt. “CMRL doesn’t have a problem with a union per se. The management has a problem only when we raise our voice against their corrupt practices,” he said.
Elaborating more on his claim, he said that according to rules, such outsourcing must happen only after calling for tender and then selecting the lowest bidder from all those who have responded to the tender.
The services are at the risk of being suspended due to the strike by the employees. CMRL has, however, denied the possibility of service disruption due to the protest.
Speaking to TNM, a CMRL spokesperson said that since the off-duty employees are only on strike, the services will run uninterrupted.
(*Name changed to protect identity)