Protesting RMS casual labourers disrupt city’s postal system
Freight services in the city have come to a standstill after casual labourers of the Railway Mail Service (RMS) began a five-day strike from November 20.
The Railway Mail Service Casual Labourers’ Union decided to launch the agitation following non-acceptance of their demand for implementation of the recommendations of the 7th Central Pay Commission (CMC). It has threatened a series of protests across the state if the government turned a deaf ear to their demands.
RMS is a division of the India Post responsible for carrying couriers through the Indian railway network.
Parcels worth crores have piled up outside the Guwahati Railway Station at Paltan Bazar. These include defence supplies to Indian Army and Indian Air Force, PAN cards and government documents, books of Sarva Siksha Abhiyan and other open schools and colleges, bank notices and parcels of online-shopping platforms such as Amazon, Flipkart etc.
“There are at least 50,000 bags lying around. Initially these were stocked in the RMS warehouse inside the station premises, but soon the parcels had to be moved outside the premises due to lack of space,” Sanjiv Kalita, secretary of the RMS Casual Labourers’ Union told G Plus.
Paresh Kalita, Senior Station Manager of Guwahati railway station said the parcels were moved outside the railway premises as it constricted the commuters’ movement on the platforms.
“Since, it is an internal matter of India Post, we (Indian Railway) cannot interfere in the matter. We have however asked the Government Railway Police (GRP) and Railway protection Force (RPF) to deploy at least six personnel round the clock throughout the protest period to watch over the goods left outside,” Kalita added.
There are about 170 casual labourers in Guwahati RMS who are hired by India Post with a permanent status and they comprise 80% of the total workforce.
Delivery of parcels delayed by two weeks
The five-day strike has delayed the delivery of parcels and documents to the entire Northeast by at least two weeks, an official of India Post said.
“Even though the strike is for five days, it will take at least two weeks to catalogue the parcels and then deliver them to the respective cargo trains. Also, since the trains on which these parcels were supposed to be loaded have already left, we will have to wait for trains to that location again,” the official said under conditions of anonymity.
Parcels registered under Speed Post, the fastest delivery network of India Post, dating back to November 12 have been left undelivered.
“Parcels despatched from here mostly consist of government documents and notices to the concerned departments’ headquarters at Delhi. But this is a small percentage of the dumped freight which consist mostly of parcels to the northeast from other destinations,” the official said.
Each cargo bogey can carry 280-300 parcels out of which only 45 were uploaded due to the strike, Raizul Hussain, president of the Casual Labourer Union said. As long as the strikes are going on, the freights were uploaded by the Grade-I labourers of India Post.
Prabhakar Guha, an official of Amazon, said that the delay in the delivery of the parcels would impact their service. He explained that Amazon has its own delivery network through private courier service agencies, but are dependent on India Post in areas where the courier agency does not have an outlet.
“We give the customers an estimated time for the delivery although our efforts are always to accomplish the task ahead of the deadline. But with the strike going on, we think there will be change of the dates. Even though our products are insured and we are not much concerned about monetary losses, a delayed delivery will badly impact our credibility,” Guha said.
“Red Tapism” in Meghdoot Bhawan
The protesting union has alleged “red tapism” in Meghdoot Bhawan – the headquarters of the Assam circle of Indian Post – for the delay in implementing the 7th Central Pay Commission (CPC).
“We had submitted the recommendations of the CPC on 1st July, but it had been bouncing from table to table. We submitted to the circle officer of the RMS, who then asked us to submit to the superintendent of India Post who later asked us to take the approval of the General Manager of Assam Circle. We have submitted our demands to him as well and are waiting for his approval,” Bhupen Barman, general secretary of the RMS Casual Labourer’s Union said.
The 7th Central Pay Commission was passed by the Union Cabinet on June 1 and it recommended that the rate of remuneration payable to full-time casual labourers should not be less than Rs 18,000 per month.
“After cutting other benefits, we are entitled to Rs 401.48 per day. But, under the present pay structure, we get only Rs 241.50 per day. Also, our October salary has not been paid yet. On top of that, the higher officials of RMS employ other contractors for our jobs which are accomplished at lower rates. We want such unscrupulous techniques to stop,” Barman said.
The union said the strike was conducted after taking due permission from the Railway Protection Force (RPF) and Guwahati railway authorities.
“We have also asked the RPF to provide security to the goods which are piled up as we understand that these include important documents and we are against harassment to the public. But Meghdoot Bhawan needs to be taught a lesson as lives are getting affected due to their red tapism,” Raizul Hussain, general secretary of the union said.
Demands of the RMS casual labourers
• Increment as per the Central Labour Commission’s guideline
• One-day leaves every week
• To restrict the working hours to eight hours
• Disbursal of salary within 10th of every month
• Health benefits and provident funds as per the Central Labour Commission
• Omission of middle parties
• To stop recruitment of new labourers