The attitude of the school’s management towards her changed drastically, Seema claims, after she joined the Kerala Unaided Teachers and Staff Union.

Did Kerala Chinmaya Mission school fire librarian for joining union Institute denies
news Controversy Monday, June 11, 2018 - 19:39

Seema Abhilash says she was a favourite staff member of the management of the Chinmaya Mission School in Kannur in the initial years of her job as a librarian.

But on June 3, she was sacked from service, after years of alleged harassment which Seema says started ever since she joined a service union in 2014.

Seema joined the Mission school in Chala, Kannur in October 2009 as a permanent staff member. In the initial three to four years, she was an organiser for many of the school programmes.

The attitude of the management towards her changed drastically, Seema alleges, after she joined the Kerala Unaided Teachers and Staff Union, a CITU affiliated service union.

“Various kinds of harassment began, with principal Sugeetha Rajan leading it. Once I was asked not to sit for a photo session with students. For 40 years librarians have sat with students for their group photo session. I was also included for three years. But this time I was informed through a male teacher not to sit. I was humiliated in front of the other teachers and my students,” Seema says in a Facebook post on June 9.

Seema says she was accused of conducting union activities and of adding staff members and teachers to the union.

“The retaliation had just begun,” the post says. The post begins with an introduction saying: “This is to bring the physical and mental harassment done by Secretary KK Rajan in the name of the Mission to the notice of the authorities.”

Seema further says that she had to face a worse allegation – that she had stolen books from the school.

“A notice was issued asking me to pay money for the books. I was told that I wouldn’t be allowed to sign the attendance register if I didn’t give a reply. I was made to stand outside the staff room for three days. I sat on the floor in protest. Other staff members were given instructions not to talk to me,” the post says.

Seema has now decided to move the Labour Court against the termination. 

“They had done this to me at a time when my age will not allow me to try for government jobs. I am 39 now. Though I have the support of a majority of the staff, they are not able to back me publicly for fear of losing their jobs,” she tells TNM.

“They first terminated me in 2017 but were forced to take me back after the union intervened. The fresh appointment was at an institution under the Mission, as a working arrangement for six months. But the termination letter says that the appointment was for a year only,” she says.

The management began to mark her absent even on days she was present for work, Seema alleges.

“When I was on leave they would search the library and my cupboard to find any paper or membership form of the union. My son, who was in Class 4 in the school at that time, would be pulled me and asked why I took leave,” the post says.

Seema alleges that yet another accusation made against her was that she had mental health issues.

“KK Rajan has told this directly to many. He even said that I had stolen books worth Rs 2 lakh from the school library. There are CCTV cameras installed at the school, how he can say that I stole books from there?” the post says.

The post further reads, “In the name of dress code, we were asked to buy two  costly silk sarees in a year. We were allowed to use that saree only for two or three days. When I questioned all this, I became the subject of strong vengeance. An inquiry commission was formed accusing me of not signing the attendance register. I was subjected to a hearing that went on for hours. I was denied vacation salary.”

Seema claims that she was given the termination notice when she became the district Vice President of the union. The reason cited was that as per CBSE directions one post was extra and hence had to be terminated.

“It needs to be examined how many librarians are needed in school which has more than 3,000 students. I was even denied due promotion,” she says in the post.

She adds, “On June 1 when I was on my way to the union office to give a letter regarding the termination, Rajan pushed me and verbally abused me in dirty language. I was sacked soon after I lodged a complaint against him. The termination notice was sent by courier to me on a Sunday.”

In the post, Seema challenges the management to prove that she was late even on a single day in the last nine days.

“The intention of the management is to ensure that dissenting voices do not come out. How long would they be able to go on threatening and scaring those who react,” the post concludes.

Clarification from school

When TNM contacted KK Rajan, the school secretary said, “When the CBSE withdrew the IB curriculum in 2017 we had to terminate two librarians, Seema and one male librarian. He was accommodated as a part-time teacher since he was a post-graduate. Then there was pressure from the CM’s office to reinstate her. When the librarian of our parallel college in Kannur retired, Seema was given a posting as librarian there.”

“Seema was drawing a salary near to that of the principal, whereas the other staff got less salary. We felt it was not fair. We then asked her to sign the acquittance register. She refused as she felt that we were trying to push her out,” he added.

Rajan also said that there due process was followed in Seema’s termination.

“She refused to keep up with the library standards. She continued to work as per school timings only. Hence this year we appointed a commission to look into her misbehaviour. She didn’t appoint a lawyer though she had provisions to do that. She was terminated as per the findings of the commission,” he claimed.

The school secretary also alleged that it was Seema who abused him after she was fired.

“After the termination, on June 4 she abused me at the school in very bad language. I didn’t abuse her. They gave complaint alleging that I pushed her, to book me in a non-bailable offence. I have secured anticipatory bail from the High Court,” he said.

Chinmaya Mission will move legally against Seema for defamation, he said.

 

 

Show us some love and support our journalism by becoming a TNM Member - Click here.