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Psst! Some in cheque, the rest in cash, please

Calcutta, Aug. 1: Trinamul union leaders today displayed their arithmetic skills by coming up with a telling formula to “settle” a lift operator problem with a residential complex on Park Street.

The long and short of the deal being negotiated now: pay a part of the settlement in cheque to the lift operator and the rest in cash. The rest of the amount has not been settled yet.

The lift operator was suspended for failure to wear his uniform. The Calcutta Shops & Commercial Sramik Sansad, which claims affiliation to the Trinamul-controlled INTTUC, has been negotiating with the housing society on behalf of the lift operator.

Severance packages — even when they are paid in the unorganised sector — are rarely split into cash and cheque payments. Those leaving jobs after long service are paid either in cash or through cheque.

When cash-cum-cheque deals are done, they inevitably raise the question whether the objective is to channel a part of the amount elsewhere. But a leader of the union said it never takes money from labourers.

The strangest part of the demand is that till late tonight, the lift operator told this newspaper that he did not want to leave the job at the residential complex. He said he had approached the union in the hope that it would take up his case to be reinstated without being harassed.

Neither the office-bearers of the housing society nor leaders of the union confirmed that such a deal was being negotiated. Both sides denied that any cash deal was being negotiated.

But The Telegraph is privy to what transpired between the residents’ body and the union leaders.

Two leaders of the union arrived at the housing complex this morning and initially concurred with the society that the lift operator would be allowed to resume work after fulfilling certain guarantees.

However, the union leaders soon changed their stand and counselled the society that it was not desirable to keep a “pocha aloo (rotten potato)” among the employees as it might cause future unrest.

Ajoy Mondal, the union general secretary, and Madhu Bhattacharya, the secretary, told the housing complex residents that it would be good if they paid the lift operator the dues he was entitled to and allowed him to go.

One of the leaders said the dues should be paid according to the norms. Since there is no clarity on norms for such payments in the unorganised sector, the leaders worked out a formula based on the number of years of service and the monthly salary. Additional benefits like bonus were added and the total figure was arrived at.

Then came the ingenious proposal. “Issue a cheque in his name but the rest you pay in cash. He has authorised the union to negotiate on his behalf,” one of the two leaders told the residents.

Sources said the final decision would be taken within a day or two. The union leaders admitted there was a mistake on their part to issue the letter to the housing complex on July 29, asking the residents to sit with them “within 24 hours” after the lift operator had approached the outfit.

The lift operator, working for 30 years in the building, said in the evening that he was not aware of any such decision and that he would like to continue working in the housing complex. Contacted tonight, he said none from the union had contacted him till then.

“The union leaders told me that there’ll be a meeting this morning but they did not get back to me till the evening. Even if they tell me something, it’s up to me to accept,” the lift operator said.

Asked whether he would resign if the union asked him to, the man in his 50s said: “If they ask me to jump off the roof of a 10-storey building, will I do that?”

The union leaders and the cooperative society’s office-bearers denied any cash deal.

“The final decision about the lift operator is yet to be taken. We have proposed to the society that the liftman should be retained and not terminated,” said Madhu Bhattacharya in the evening. “The union has not demanded any money,” he added.

The residents’ association said it was up to the lift operator to decide whether he wanted to continue or part ways.

“The union leaders said he can be kept or terminated. We told them he should maintain discipline at work,” said an office-bearer. “However, we are yet to take any decision on this. The union leaders admitted there was some confusion over the issue,” he said.