Odisha: Gherao of Welfare Board by Construction Workers

28 May 2015
CLOSE ON the heels of May Day, Odisha witnessed another crackdown on an unorganized workers' union. Apprehensive, perhaps, of its growing strength and militancy, the Labour Commissioner-cum-Member Secretary to the Odisha Building and Other Construction Board debarred the TUCI-affiliated OdishaNirmanShramik Union from certifying building and other construction workers to be registered with the welfare board through a letter dated 23.04.2015. The union was not served any kind of show-cause notice, nor called for any kind of hearing, before the above harsh and arbitrary decision was taken. Even the aforementioned letter debarring the union was not issued to the union, but to all the 32 District Labour Officers, 30 Collectors, the DLCs and the ALCs. Declaring the order to be illegal, unconstitutional, undemocratic and against workers' interests, the OdishaNirmanShramik Union and Odisha State Committee of TUCI have announced a gherao of the Welfare Board on 25th May demanding the withdrawal of this illegal order. They have also demanded that building and other construction workers be provided with labour cards in 30 days, that the registered beneficiaries be provided the benefits within 45 days, that the vacancies in the District Labour Offices be filled promptly, that the loot of funds in the name of training be stopped, that the cess be raised from 1% to 2% according to central law and strictly collected and deposited in the Board's fund and that all information be posted on the Board's website and regularly update its, etc.

Odisha Nirman Shramik Union, registered under the Trade Union Act of 1926, has been working uncompromisingly among the unorganised workers since the last 12 years. This Union has never been involved in any kind of irregularity or fraud ever since its inception. It is to be noted here that while the government grandly advertises its schemes of providing social security to construction workers, in reality the Welfare Board is a hothouse of rampant anarchy and corruption. The Odisha Nirman Shramik Union has been engaged in exposing the misdeeds of the Welfare Board through use of the RTI Act. Last year in June Com Sivaram, central committee member of TUCI, and two other union officials were physically attacked at the Khurda District Labour Office where they had gone on some union business.

The Union's agitation will continue till the illegal order is withdrawn. In this context the Odisha State Committee of TUCI has appealed to all trade unions, especially those working in the unorganized sector, to raise their voice and protest against the order.
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