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Mayor carries unions to VRS talks

It is aimed at cutting 15,000 jobs and was organised exclusively for him. But mayor Subrata Mukherjee, a prominent labour leader himself, took along with him Left, Congress and Trinamul Congress union leaders to attend a meeting on Wednesday evening with the Department for International Development (DFID), UK, which has shown interest in funding a voluntary retirement scheme (VRS) for civic employees.

Mukherjee’s main objective was to persuade union leaders in the Calcutta Municipal Corporation (CMC), protesting the mayor’s move to operate a VRS for redundant CMC employees, to come to an agreement on the issue through the DFID route.

Officers indicated that successful talks with DFID representatives on how to restructure a VRS will eventually help the government expand its efforts towards labour reforms.

Wednesday’s meeting, meant for the mayor, actually had wider participation from municipal affairs minister Asok Bhattacharya, borough chairpersons and leaders of the four major trade unions (Citu, Aituc, Intuc and Trinamul Intuc) in the CMC.

The DFID was represented by team leader of Calcutta environmental improvement project Ashwajit Singh and deputy team leader Paul Dean.

“The DFID has already allotted a grant of Rs 310 crore to the CMC for capacity-building and they have principally agreed to sanction more grants for introducing a VRS,” said Mukherjee on Wednesday evening.

“We took the union leaders along for a discussion because we wanted them to understand the issue in the context of local as well as national and international compulsions. Such compulsions must be read properly and acted upon,” said the mayor.

Mukherjee, in his address requesting the DFID to support a thorough and scientific study of the existing manpower and its current utilisation, said: “We have a very large manpower. Its composition, size and professional character have been shaped by history.”

He told the DFID that there were about 45,000 employees on the civic payroll and about 90 per cent of them belonged to the lower echelons. He stressed that there were too many departments, sections and units in the CMC that needed to be reorganised to facilitate coordination and lend coherence to administration.

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