The State government has promised direct payment of wages to contract pourakarmikas starting August, but workers are concerned about the backlog that is piling up.
At least 4,000 contract pourakarmikas have not been paid for the last two to three months, according to a ground survey by activists.
Vinay Sreenivasa, a member of Alternative Law Forum, said this includes workers in R.R. Nagar, Kengeri, Shivajinagar, R.T. Nagar and Mahadevapura. "The State government's promise to pay the workers does not mean they can bail out of existing payments," said Mr. Sreenivasa.
In a majority of the wards, pourakarmikas have not been paid for the month of June. "The problem is widespread in the east zone, south zone, R.R. Nagar, Dasarahalli and Mahadevapura," said Maitreyee Krishnan, executive member of the BBMP Guttige Pourakarmikara Sangha.
For the workers, it is a daily struggle to make ends meet. "We have to pay rent and manage our day-to-day expenses. It’s difficult to do that without money for nearly two months," said Vijayamma, a contract pourakarmika in Banaswadi. Her husband passed away several years ago and she lives on her own.
Joint Commissioner (SWM) Sarfaraz Khan admitted that in some wards, payments had been withheld for the last two months, but clarified that this was done to weed out the problem of ghost workers. "In 20% of wards, we held up wages for May and June and made it clear that we would not clear the bills until a cross-verification of the number of workers was carried out by the contractors. However, with no response from contractors in several wards, three days ago, we took a decision to make the payments since workers were being put to difficulty for no fault of theirs," said Mr. Khan, adding that the number of pourakarmikas affected is not as high as has been suggested. According to him, the payment would be remitted in a couple of days.
Pourakarmikas refuse to work
On Thursday, close to 150 contract pourakarmikas in Horamavu (Ward no 25) struck work saying they had not been paid for four months.
The contractor for the ward, Manjunath K.M., said his hands are tied as he had not received any funds from the BBMP for the last four months. "We know that they are struggling to run their families, but what can we do when we haven't got any payment since March," said Mr. Manjunath.
There is another issue.
"Many pourakarmikas have been working for more than 20 years. However, their work record shows that they joined in 2016. There is no mention of the accumulated PF for the earlier years," said C.P. Appanna, State secretary of the All India Central Council of Trade Unions.