Hamalis demand correction in wage anomalies

Workers rally under the banner of Karnataka Shramika Shakti, take out protest march, stage demonstration in Kalaburagi

Workers in the Karnataka Food and Civil Supplies Corporation (KFCSC) and the Taluk Agricultural Produce Co-operative Marketing Society (TAPCMS) godowns demanded that the State government correct the anomalies in their wages by compelling contractors to pay revised scales for all of them.

The workers rallied under the banner of Karnataka Shramika Shakti, an organisation of workers, and took out a protest march from SVP Circle to the district administrative complex here on Thursday where they staged a demonstration putting forward the demand.

The agitating workers, who are employed in loading and unloading foodgrain packets in the State-owned warehouses, said that wages revised in November 2018 were being paid only in Kalaburagi city and Rural and Shahabad and Chittapur taluks where the process of tender for retail transportation of foodgrain packets was finalised. According to them, contractors in Afzalpur, Aland, Chincholi, Jevargi and Sedam taluks were paying the old wages only.

“These are the poor hamalis that labour in State-owned godowns by loading and unloading heavy foodgrain packets. They are the ones who are instrumental in implementing the State government’s flagship welfare programme Anna Bhagya. But, their sufferings and hardships are hardly heard by the government.

“As their pleas for wage anomaly corrections have gone unheard, they had to come onto the street in agitation,” Varada Rajendra, a labour leader associated with Karnataka Shramika Shakti, told The Hindu.

Some workers also alleged that Peer Pasha A. Akkalakota, a contractor of foodgrain transportation in godowns in Kalaburagi Rural, had cheated them by not depositing Provident Fund and Employee’s State Insurance Corporation deductions with the agencies concerned.

“The contractor has deducted 1.75 % and 12 % of our wages as mandatory deductions for ESI and PF, respectively. He was supposed to contribute his share and deposit it with ESIC and PF agencies. However, he has not deposited any amount since December 2018. It is a clear violation of labour laws in force,” said Chandrakanth, a worker and district president of the Karnataka Shramika Shakti, demanding a criminal case against the errant contractor.

Uday, another agitating worker, said that Jevargi contractor M.D. Haji, Afzalpur contractor Lakshmikanth Lachhappa Jamedar and Chittapur contractor Lingaraju S. Bukka had deducted amounts for PF and ESI from some employees who were actually working in the godowns and deposited them in the accounts of other employees.

“The Labour Department should consider these violations seriously and book criminal cases against these contractors. The department should withhold payment to these errant contractors until the issue is settled,” he said.

A memorandum, with a list of demands, was submitted to the office concerned.

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