The contract workers demanded that the economic incentive of Rs 7,500 each which was promised to the staff of Hyderabad's civic body, should be extended to them as well.

Why arent we being recognised Hyderabad contract sanitation workers protest
Coronavirus Coronavirus Thursday, April 09, 2020 - 14:51

"We are not even being allowed inside our homes," says Ch Lakshmi, the anger evident in her voice. She continues, "As a result of this, a group of women who work at the hospital are sleeping in an ashram. Despite all of this, we don't get incentives like sanitation workers of the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC).

Lakshmi was part of a large group of frontline sanitation workers, hired on a contract basis, who staged a protest on Thursday morning at the state-run Gandhi Hospital in Hyderabad, where all COVID-19 patients in Telangana are presently being treated.

The workers staged a protest demanding that they should also be made eligible for the economic incentive of Rs 7,500 each, over and above their salaries -- an offer that Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao has given to GHMC sanitation workers as a 'gift' for keeping the city clean during the COVID-19 lockdown.

While GHMC sanitation workers are considered permanent employees, those who protested in front of the hospital on Thursday are considered contract staff and there is ambiguity whether they are eligible for the incentive. Later on, the contractor came and met the employees and said that he would speak to the concerned authorities regarding their incentives and convinced the employees to get back to  work.

Speaking to TNM, workers said that they are facing a hard time due to the lockdown too.

"Back at home, our men do not have any work due to lockdown as most of them are into construction work or the dependent on daily wage labour, They are sitting idle at home and here we are struggling at the hospital so that we will be able to pay our rents and get some groceries," Lakshmi said.

"Are we not working like GHMC sanitation workers? Why are we not being recognized then? We are even risking our lives being close to the COVID-19 wards which are dealing with positive patients, despite strong opposition from our homes," said another worker Yellamma.

"We are also voters. It's not with the votes of only GHMC workers that the government came to power," added another worker on the condition of anonymity.

One of the supervisors of the sanitation workers said that even they are in a dilemma over whether contact workers working in the hospital would be included for the incentives that the government promised to sanitation workers.

Contract workers doing sanitation work, patient care work and working as security guards in government hospitals across Telangana on average get a salary of below Rs 10,000.

Sources said that most of the sanitation workers get a salary of Rs 8,500 to Rs 9500 and the government asked the contractors to give an incentive of ten percent which would be a maximum of Rs 1000.

"We have even written to  Vaidya Vidhana Parishad (which manages secondary-level hospitals) and other health officials to increase their salaries or at least to give one month salary in advance as incentive during the crisis, but we haven't got any response yet", said M Narasimha, President, Telangana Medical Contract Workers Union (TMCWU).

As of now, there are 453 cases of COVID-19 reported in Telangana, with 45 recoveries and 11 deaths, as per the Ministry of Public Health and Family welfare, Telangana. All active cases in Hyderabad are being treated at Gandhi Hospital.

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