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Cat out of union’s meddling bag
- ‘Settlement’ order to housing society

Calcutta, July 31: Trinamul union leaders today rolled out their formula to “settle the matter” between a Park Street housing complex and one of its lift operators: money.

The union leaders advised the residents to terminate the service of the lift operator and pay him a “settlement”. But the lift operator, who was suspended for failure to wear his uniform, told The Telegraph he wanted to continue working there and had not “even considered leaving the job”.

Two leaders of the Calcutta Shops & Commercial Sramik Sansad, which claims affiliation to the Trinamul-controlled INTTUC, arrived at the housing complex this morning.

Ajoy Mondal, general secretary, and Madhu Bhattacharya, secretary, claimed to be speaking on behalf of the lift operator who accompanied the duo till the gates but stood outside the premises. Mondal and Bhattacharya were with the RSP but joined Trinamul in 2008 when the political climate in Bengal began to change.

The union leaders took the issue beyond the uniform, alleging that the residents were not paying the minimum stipulated wages to the lift operator and other employees, a resident said.

Rules on the unorganised sector lack clarity, and the state government’s minimum-wage list does not mention that of a lift operator. The Mamata Banerjee government has said it is working on a comprehensive policy covering more tasks in the unorganised sector.

“The union leaders told us that we would have to give a raise to all the employees if we raised the salary of one. They kept saying that terminating the lift operator’s service and giving him some money was our best option. Finally, the two leaders told us they would come back tomorrow morning and tell us what the amount of settlement should be,” the resident added.

“We want to keep the lift operator but he should wear the proper uniform and come. But the union leaders insisted about the settlement money,” the resident said. “It’s strange that they should fix the amount of settlement. This should be calculated by the employers and the employee in case he wants to leave.”

Another resident said: “The leaders could not offer any answer to the question why the trade union representatives were getting involved.”

The lift operator later told this newspaper that he had no clue that the union leaders, whom he had approached after being told not to turn up for work without the proper uniform, were negotiating the terms of his termination with his employers.

“I don’t want to leave the job. I had not even considered it. I have been working here for the past 30 years and my employers have been very helpful. I’ll speak to my family members about this,” the lift operator said.

The lift operator, who is in his 50s and lives in Sonarpur on the southern fringes of the city, said he went to the union to get himself reinstated as he was under the impression that his services had been terminated. “I am a poor man and want my job. For all these years, there was never any problem,” he said.

Asked about the demand for the lump sum, Mondal, the union leader, said: “We told them if his service is terminated, he should be paid PF, gratuity and other payments according to law.”

The housing society’s office-bearers said the lift operator did not have any PF or gratuity. He gets a monthly salary of around Rs 5,000 and is entitled to medical insurance.

Contacted later in the evening, Mondal said: “What we meant is that he should be paid the amount due if there was PF or gratuity. We want the issue to be resolved in our presence and so we’ll be going there tomorrow.”

Asked why a union for shops and commercial workers was meddling in the affairs of a residential building, Mondal said: “We are fighting for the rights of a poor man. The lift operator has his wife and son, who is a college student. He has to run the family. What will happen to him if he is thrown out of the job?”