CHENNAI: Despite a recent Railway Board circular directing all zonal railways to pay this year's Productivity Linked Bonus (PLB) to eligible employees through electronic transfer into their salary accounts, around 30 per cent of Southern Railway staff, most of those in workshops, received it in cash.
This was allegedly due to armtwisting by the sole recognised union of the zone, Southern Railway Mazdoor Union (SRMU), which forced various departments of the railway to defy this order and offer workers an option of getting the bonus in cash as well.
Around 80,864 workers got the bonus, of which 71 per cent got it through the electronic transfer.
Explaining the reasons for SRMU's insistence on cash payment of bonus, railway workers across various departments told Express that the SRMU extracts a 'donation' or subscription fee from them when bonus was paid. Cash payments usually happen at railway offices and the union members could easily compel the staff by using strong-arm tactics.
"If it is paid via online, they will not be able to get a good collection," said a woman staff for two decades.
An employee is paid a bonus of `8975 before the Ayutha Pooja/Dushera holidays which is used to cover additional expenses during the festival season. However, most employees shell out anywhere between Rs. 1,000 and Rs. 2,000 to the union from their bonus.
In the past, when cash payment was the norm, donations would have to be paid whether the employee was a union member or not.
This year's situation was better than earlier because of the resistance of rival unions like Dakshin Railway Employees Union (DREU) and All India Station Masters Assocation (AISMA), which backed the railway administration's decision.
However most divisions and departments, including the zonal headquarters at Chennai, succumbed to the union's pressure, railway officials said. At some locations like the Golden Rock workshop, Trichy, members of rival unions like DREU, were given the bonus in cash though they had not opted for it.
At the Basin Bridge yard last week, SRMU workers refused to shunt passenger train coaches if the cash payment option wasn't given to them, said R Elangovan, working president, DREU.
Maximum instances of cash payments were at workshops like Golden Rock, Perambur Loco and Carriage Works, where union strong-arm tactics are most potent, a senior railway official said. Only Salem division followed the norm properly as they released the bonus on October 7, the day Railway Board issued the circular.
Cash payments also hit Southern Railway hard, as the entire process requires additional manpower and payments are delayed at many locations like Madurai. "The cashier cadre, which does this job, has been removed at many locations. So other staff had to be arranged with RPF escort, which caused additional expenditure to the Railways," said another senior officer of Chennai division.
Reacting to the allegations, SRMU working president CA Raja Sridhar told Express that they wanted workers to exercise all options while receiving the bonus.
On donations, he said SRMU had every right to collect it as they fought for the workers' rights since 1974. "We don't force anyone, we collect only from those who are willing to give," he said.