Nearly four days after the state-wide agitation by duty guards resulted in rail freight stagnation, the Additional Divisional Railways Manager has agreed to hold talks with the workers. The representatives of the striking staff said, if no consensus is reached on the talks to be held on Wednesday, the agitation would be intensified.
The duty guards began a state-wide non-cooperation drive on Saturday against the Railways management for their failure to fill the existing guard vacancies in the Thiruvananthapuram division.
The guards have alleged that the vacancies that shot up to sixty in the past three years have resulted in them working inordinate number of hours.
They are also being denied the necessary rest as stipulated by the Railway Board. Currently, even though the sanctioned strength is 202, every year more than twenty vacancies for duty guards crop up in the division.
In 2012 alone, 22 vacancies have been reported with nearly two senior guards retiring every month.
The guards stated that the Thiruvananthapuram Divisional Railway Officials are yet to appraise the officials in Chennai about the issue.
“Over the months, we have cooperated with the officials whenever we were asked to put in extra hours. Recently, we feel that we are being exploited on this ground. We have decided not to take up extra duty and also stick to the allotted rest hours. No action can be taken against us for non-cooperation,” the guards said.
Southern Railways Mazdoor Union (SRMU) president P Unnikrishnan said that the guards play no little role. “The Railway guidelines state that at least one guard should travel in each train, both passenger as well as the goods train. In the absence of the duty guard, the train cannot ply from its location,” he said. He stated that the SRMU has constantly brought up the issue before the management.
Meanwhile, it has been alleged that the Senior Divisional Operating Manager has issued an order that no leave should be granted to any of the guards if they fail to cooperate with the Railway authorities.