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One day pay cut for absence on strike day

Calcutta, March 7: The state government has decided to cut a day’s salary of employees who skipped work on the day of the Citu-sponsored general strike on February 28, but spared them the break-in-service clause it had threatened to invoke.

Today’s order, issued by the finance department, came as a relief to many employees who were absent that day. As a last-ditch attempt to foil the strike, Mamata Banerjee had threatened on strike-eve to crack the break-in-service whip on those employees who would ignore the chief secretary’s circular and be absent on February 28.

The dies non clause that the government invoked today is derived from the no-work-no-pay principle. It is a much lighter clause in comparison with break in service, which could have affected pension calculations significantly as government employees need to put in 20 years of uninterrupted service to be eligible for full pension.

A break in service would have had much larger implications on promotions and increment calculations.

“A day’s docking of salary is a much lighter provision than break in service, which would have meant a fresh start of career. I would have lost the seniority I had earned by putting in 12 years of service,” a government employee who took part in the strike said.

The government, however, will first issue a show-cause notice to the employees who stayed away from office on strike day. Action will be taken against those whose answers are not found satisfactory. The order gave a list of reasons that the absent employees can cite, with documentary evidences.

Although senior office bearers of the Left-backed Co-ordination Committee — an umbrella organisation of 33 government employees’ associations — claimed victory, saying that the administration did not dare invoke the break-in-service clause because of their “tough stand”, a senior official said Mamata did the “right thing”.

“Her main objective was to ensure high attendance at government offices on February 28. She achieved that. As attendance in government offices was over 85 per cent on that day, there was no need for her to invoke the break-in-service clause, which would have provoked court cases,” he said.

Former Tamil Nadu chief minister Jayalalithaa had faced such a situation after sacking 1.7 lakh government employees for striking work on July 2, 2003. In August 2003, 1.64 lakh of them had to reinstated after the Supreme Court intervened. The 6,000 employees who were not reinstated had allegedly indulged in violence.

Sources in the government said Mamata “tried to gauge the mood of the employees and checked legal provisions before taking a final decision” on the action.

“The government did not initiate the break-in-service clause as it could have been challenged in court. But the government can deduct a day’s salary and a day’s seniority if an employee remains absent for a day without valid reasons,” the official said.

Co-ordination Committee leaders said the panel was “discussing our next course of action”.