A large number of temporary workers, contracted to the private company handling operations at the International Air Cargo Complex of Chennai Airport, launched an indefinite protest on Wednesday.
The protest was in support of their demands, including a hike in wages, permanency, basic medical and canteen facilities, among others.
The workers are members of an employees union affiliated to the All India Trade Union Congress and are working for Bhadra International India Limited. They said the failure of their company as well as the State and Central government agencies, including the labour departments and Airports Authority of India, to address their grievances forced them to protest and abstain from work.
The workers said they were hired by the company when it took over operations in 2010 and there were several hundred workers in six broad categories – handyman (loaders), fork lift driver, superviser, shift in-charge, shed in-charge and house-keeping staff.
They receive a monthly salary between Rs. 6,000 and Rs. 8,000 and this has remained unchanged for the past two years. “There has been no salary hike, nor have we received a bonus even once,” said Dayanidhi, a handyman. According to him, the cargo complex did not even have basic first aid or an ambulance and other vehicles to rush injured people to medical attention and that on a few occasions in the past, injured workers were taken in cargo trolleys. The complex did not have a canteen either, he added.
K. Raj, showed the details of the salary, issued to him by the company and printed on the reverse side of a waste paper. While his cost to company was mentioned as Rs. 8,060, he received only Rs. 6,084 after a deduction of Rs. 883 towards provident fund, Employee State Insurance Corporation and Professional Tax. “Where the remaining Rs.1,100 goes every month remains a mystery,” he pointed out adding that a similar amount went missing from the wages of all workers.
Without any further delay, the workers should be made permanent staff of the company and they should be given house rent allowance, dearness allowance apart from decent canteen facilities, the workers said. Workers said the monthly wages was a pittance considering the prevailing economy.
Gurudas Dasgupta, AITUC leader and Lok Sabha Member of Parliament, addressed the workers, in support of their demands. Repeated attempts by The Hindu to get the reaction of officials of Bhadra International were in vain. Cargo handling operations were not affected due to the strike, airport sources said.