CHENNAI: Though the Tamil Nadu government extended maternity leave for government employees from six to nine months in 2016, permanent employees of the Chennai Metro Rail Ltd (CMRL) have alleged that they are not being given nine months’ leave. They have also lodged a complaint in this regard with the Labour Commission.
The Madras High Court had delivered a verdict in October saying the Metro Rail comes under the purview of the State government, and its employees are naturally covered by the State Labour Acts. Hence, they are eligible to the statutory nine months’ maternity leave.
The High Court judgment stated that, “Chennai Metro Rail projects are implemented in Chennai metropolitan city and Metro Rail itself is a company incorporated under the Companies Act, 1956. Officials of both the State and Central governments have constituted a board of administration and directors. Metro Rail’s registered office is in the city. Considering this administrative set-up, this court has no hesitation to come to the conclusion that the State government authorities is to be construed as the appropriate government.”
The 70-odd women employees of Metro Rail said though they had repeatedly applied for nine months’ leave since 2016, they were not permitted to take it. As a result, most of the women staff find it difficult to juggle their job and personal life.
A woman employee with two children, on condition of anonymity, said that once she had to bring her infant to work during night shift as there was no one at home to take care of the child. "I had no choice. Throughout the night, I had to do my work and look after my child too. During these days, the management didn't provide any transport facility to go drop me home either. Other women like me have an equally tough time too," she said.
Another employee said women, who do not have family support or enough money to leave their children at creche, are under a lot of pressure. "Some women quit after having a child. Of course, the Metro Rail has set up a committee for the welfare of women. But, this panel functions only on paper. We don't have any avenue to register our grievances," she rued.
Top sources said 'ineffective inspection' carried out by the Labour Commission was another reason for the issue to have remained unnoticed till now. "Also, employees do not get compensatory off or a day's salary for working on public holidays. Instead, they get `100. If proper inspections are carried out, the commission can solve these issues," sources said.
"Under the National Festivals and Holidays Act, government employees who work on four national holidays and other State government declared holidays are mandated to get double wages for that day. CMRL can be prosecuted by the Labour Department for not abiding to basic labour laws. But till date, such action hasn't been taken against any company in general though warranted," said Justice D Hariparanthaman, former judge of Madras High Court. When Express contacted the management, an official said Metro Rail is providing six months' maternity leave as per the Maternity Act, which has been mentioned in the HR manual too. "Compensatory off and extra salary for working on national and other holidays is being paid. These allegations are baseless," the official claimed.