From Wednesday, no sanitation worker will clear garbage from the streets in the Secunderabad Cantonment area in Hyderabad. The workers are going on strike against unpaid wages for the month of August. Joining hands with the workers against the Secunderabad Cantonment Board (SCB) would be the sanitation contractors who have also not been paid for months.
About 420 sanitation workers oversee the sanitation of the 40.17 sq km that fall under the SCB. Their August salaries have not been paid as the SCB has not released the sanctioned funds to the 20 odd sanitation contractors with the board.
“The salaries should be credited on the fifth of every month but the August salary did not get credited. Initially, everyone waited, then on September 19, we did a dharna in front of the SCB office and then we entered into talks with the officials. We were told that the salary will be credited on Monday but even that did not happen,” said Narasimha, president of the All India Trade Union Congress, representing the sanitation workers. “The contractors have been submitting bills for the past three months but they too have not been paid, the SCB officials have not released the funds,” he added.
The sanitation contractors with the SCB pay Rs 553 per day to each sanitation worker under them. “For the past three months, I have been paying the worker salaries out of my own pocket. I can’t afford to pay them anymore until the board releases some money,” said Ramesh*, a sanitation contractor who took a one year contract a few months ago. “They have not paid our GST input tax from work contract either,” he added.
Work contracts attract an 18% GST; the sanitation workers pay this tax to the SCB while entering into a contract. The SCB is required to return this amount when the contractor claims it back as his input tax credit.
“The GST returns amounting to Rs 50 lakh is pending from last year. The SCB CEO says he will have to talk to his auditor to release that fund. If they release at least that amount we can keep paying the workers their salaries. We are not even demanding that they pay us the running costs now, they can give that later. We are only asking for past dues,” the contractor added.
SCB officials were unresponsive despite calls and text messages. This copy will be updated if a response is received.
Reporter U Mahesh, who first reported the story for The New Indian Express, spoke to Sagarika, a sanitation worker, who told him: “I have been working in the SCB for three years. The officials and contractors have not paid our salaries for the past two months (August and September) despite several appeals to the authorities concerned. We don’t have any other source of income to run our family.”