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Civic staff on warpath
- Unions backtrack on voluntary retirement

Twenty-four hours after attending a meeting on the voluntary retirement scheme (VRS) with mayor Subrata Mukherjee, trade union leaders in the Calcutta Municipal Corporation (CMC) decided to oppose it tooth and nail. The meeting was held with representatives of the British Department for International Development (DFID).

Union leaders of Citu, Trinamul Congress and Intuc, who seemed to hold nothing against the VRS and did not dispute the introduction of new technology and computerisation for the improvement of civic services and transparency at Wednesday’s meeting, lost no time on Thursday to announce their agitation plans. Citu has announced an employees’ agitation on Tuesday, and Trinamul and Intuc leader Sobhandeb Chattopadhyay, too, announced an employees’ agitation programme against VRS next week.

Most of the ruling Trinamul councillors have expressed their solidarity with the employees’ movement on the grounds that the mayor announced the policy decision without discussing it with their party leadership.

The Trinamul-BJP board in the CMC, led by mayor Subrata Mukherjee, himself a union leader, wants to abolish 15,000 of the 45,000 posts in the CMC.

“Instead of firing redundant employees, we are working out a subsistence package for them, for which financial support from foreign funding agencies is required,” he said.

The DFID of the UK had shown an interest in funding a VRS for the civic employees, he added.

Saying it was necessary for the survival of the institution, Mukherjee said: “These trade union leaders remained almost silent during the meeting at Grand Hotel.”

When Chattopadhyay said he and his followers would always support the mayor for the improvement of the CMC, Citu leader Jyanmoy Biswas said: “We are always against the blocking of promotional channels and shrinking of job opportunities.”

Intuc leader Rishi Das said about 4,500 posts had fallen vacant in the CMC. Hence, before pursuing the VRS, the mayor should re-deploy the surplus or idle manpower in those vacant posts.

The DFID consultants had explained on Wednesday how the CMC ran on government grants, as 54.2 per cent of the total civic expenditure came from the state government.

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