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Home » My Kolkata » Places » Four-day strike by upkeep staff at New Town complex

Labour strike

Four-day strike by upkeep staff at New Town complex

From September 10 to 13, they boycotted work and picketed outside the main gate

Our Special Correspondent | Published 17.09.21, 09:08 AM
The main gate of NBCC Vibgyor Towers. The picketing was happening at a side of the gate.

The main gate of NBCC Vibgyor Towers. The picketing was happening at a side of the gate.

Sudeshna Banerjee

NBCC Vibgyor Towers, the biggest housing estate in Action Area 1 of New Town, spent the better part of last week under siege from its own housekeeping and maintenance staff.

From September 10 to 13, they boycotted work and picketed outside the main gate. “For three days, we did not have our garbage cleared as they were refusing to let in substitute workers. Three flats suffered power cuts for eight hours as the agitators didn’t allow any outside electrician in. Finally we could get one in by an app cab after dark. Some families had problems in their plumbing and were forced to stop using one of the two toilets in the flat. We could do nothing as water went waste through a cracked pipe,” said a member of the Board of Managers, NBCC VT who requested anonymity for fear of reprisal from the agitators.

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The substitute workers called to clear the garbage, he added, were thrashed. “When our secretary went out to bring them in, she could not come in due to an unruly mob gathered at the gate. We had to call the New Town police station for help,” said the member.

How it started

Trouble was brewing since last year, when some employees were sacked for drunken misdemeanour during the lockdown. In what residents believe was a retaliatory move, the board president’s son was assaulted by a gardener, incited by another gardener, on August 19. The residents’ body moved Barasat court and a legal notice was served, terminating the services of both.

The situation flared up again recently on August 20 and 21 when the employees went on a two-day flash strike. When the management suspended 23 agitating workers and docked their salaries, the strike and picketing started from September 10.

A case against the nine agitators has been filed at the Barasat court. On Tuesday, the court directed the New Town police station to conduct an enquiry and fixed November 11 as the next date of hearing.

The agitators have joined work on Tuesday but are holding on to their demands. They are seeking reinstatement of the gardener accused of inciting the assault on the resident as well as payment arrears. “Two employees, including the gardener, did not receive salaries for two months of service. They must explain why they cannot continue work despite being long-time employees,” said plumber Subir Ghosh, on behalf of the agitators.

The staff were recruited by NBCC during the construction of the complex in 2010. When the residents’ welfare association was formed in 2016, a member says, they were retained “on humanitarian grounds”.

The board members say the arrears that are due because of a recent minimum wages revision order of the government would be taken care of. “The order was issued only in August and reached us a week back,” a member said.

In the meantime, with the agitators back on the premises, the workers from outside engaged to paint the buildings are scared to return as they had allegedly been beaten up earlier. “Even our administrative employees are facing regular threats for reporting for duty. If this is happening to us today, unless the administration takes note, this can happen to any other housing complex in New Town tomorrow,” the member added.
 

Sufal Bangla stalls back

A Sufal Bangla stall on Wednesday morning near CB Block market

A Sufal Bangla stall on Wednesday morning near CB Block market

Sourced by the correspondent

Sufal Bangla stalls made a comeback on the pavements of New Town on Saturday after the NKDA, which had barred them from doing business on the pavement, took a U-turn.

“We allowed them back after residents complained of inconvenience. But our officials will undertake joint inspections of the area with their officials from time to time,” said an NKDA official.

A survey to search for alterative space to relocate them has been called off as the administration realised the difficulty of finding sites close enough to their current spots.

There are 30 mobile outlets run in New Town by Sufal Bangla, an initiative of the department of agricultural marketing.

Write to us at saltlake@abp.in

Last updated on 18.09.21, 12:56 PM
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