‘Forced to work day and night’: Kerala electricity board workers to go on strike

KSEB workers are paid Rs 25 for an extra night shift that follows after a day’s duty.
‘Forced to work day and night’: Kerala electricity board workers to go on strike
‘Forced to work day and night’: Kerala electricity board workers to go on strike
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The Kerala Electricity Executive Staff Organization (KEESO) is going to launch a strike against overtime work in the Kerala State Electricity Board (KSEB). KEESO alleges that some workers are threatened by the officials to work for 21 hours, as they club night duties with their daytime duties.

Called the ‘Quit Day Night Protest’, it is unclear as to how many workers will take part in the protest. However, according to KEESO President P G Prasad, the details of the protest will be decided in a meeting which will be held next week.

KEESO had approached the Kerala High Court regarding the issue in 2013 after five electricity workers were suspended for denying to work overtime. Following the petition filed by KEESO, the Kerala HC strictly prohibited overtime work hours for electricity board workers. Despite this, KEESO alleges that KSEB officials forcefully make the workers do overtime.

According to the Factories Act of 1948, electricity board workers should not be asked to work for more than nine hours a day or 48 hours a week. KEESO claims that in about 770 section offices, more than 8400 workers are made to work for over 12 hours, and more than 1400 workers are forced to work for 21 hours a day.

KEESO president P G Prasad told TNM that these workers are given meagre allowances for working overtime.

“Officials threaten to cut their salary or suspend them if they deny doing overtime. They are helpless, and out of fear, they take up overtime. There are different sections of employees in KSEB. The issue of overtime is mainly faced by line men and overseer workers. Line men are given a monthly allowance of Rs 380 for overtime work i.e., they are only paid Rs 3 an hour for extra work. When called for a night duty after completing a day’s work, these employees are paid Rs 25 for one night.”

Prasad also raised concerns over the security of KSEB workers as their daily work comes with high risks.

“Electricity workers handle risky jobs on a day-to-day basis. Due to lack of sleep, stress and tension, a lot of accidents are caused. They cannot concentrate after such stressful long working hours. KSEB officials should act immediately to avoid such accidents in the future,” Prasad says.

He also goes on to add that“when a worker is allotted continuous night duty, he starts his work by 8 am. Around 5 pm he is given a break of three hours to freshen up. Only those who live nearby can make use of this. Rest of them usually continue to work in office. Night duty starts at 8 pm and gets over by 8 am next day. Workers are given Rs 25 for this tedious work and a day off the next day.”

Mani Lal, a line man, has been in service for 13 years. He was suspended by KSEB for denying to work overtime. Talking to TNM, he says that he didn’t have a job for four months after the KSEB officials suspended him.

“I was left without a job for about four months as I denied to work overtime. I am paid only Rs 25 for taking up an extra night shift. If the weather is bad, then we have to work continuously for several hours. We are stressed out and tensed most of the time. A lot of accidents are caused because of this. In the last five years, about 1000 people, including workers and citizens, have died because of short circuit or related issues,” he adds.

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