Workers’ unrest to hit hills

Darjeeling, June 26: The 8,000 ad-hoc workers of the DGHC will start a fast-unto-death in town from Saturday to demand immediate regularisation of their jobs.
Permanent government employees in the hills, on the other hand, will go on a mass casual leave tomorrow.
“We have heard that the government is mulling a move to shift government offices from Darjeeling to Siliguri and have decided to go on mass casual leave tomorrow as a mark of protest,” said B.P. Chhetri, vice-president of the Hill Employees’ Association.
The decision, which has been taken together with the Hill Employees Workers Trade Union, will disrupt all offices in Darjeeling.
The ad-hoc workers’ demand is a long-standing one and they have been on a relay hunger strike since June 7.
“Our relay hunger strike in front of the Lal Kothi (the administrative headquarters of the DGHC) will end tomorrow. We will hold a massive rally in town after that and from Saturday we will start the fast-unto-death,” said Machendra Subba, the president of the Janmukti Astai Karmachari Sangatan — an affiliate of the Morcha.
A seven-member team will sit for the indefinite hunger strike, said Subba.
The 8,000 workers are currently employed on six-month contracts and although DGHC officials had earlier promised that they would be regularised, there is still no word from the Bengal government.
The term of the current six-month contracts will end soon. Sources said the regularisation process would take at least a month to be completed, largely because the council is overstaffed.
The DGHC officials had also said that before the regularisation process begins, the workers would be given new contracts that will not be time-bound. Although no official could be contacted, sources said the council had forwarded the new terms to the state government on June 20.
“If we get to hear something positive from the state government by tomorrow evening, we will call off the fast-unto-death. It all depends on the state government’s response now,” said Subba.
The contract workers get paid between Rs 2,000 and Rs 3,500 a month. Sources maintain that the state government has agreed in principle to do away with the six-month contract system and increase the salaries of these workers until the regularisation process is completed.
A final word from the state government is expected to come after the Morcha delegation meets chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee in Calcutta tomorrow. (The Telegraph)

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