NEW DELHI: A Rajya Sabha member on Friday wrote to Railway Minister Piyush Goyal questioning the non-renewal of contracts of hospitality supervisors employed with the IRCTC, and said they offered their services to the national transporter at the "peak" of the COVID-19 crisis.
RJD MP Manoj Jha said he is writing on behalf of these workers who had been hired by the Indian Railways Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC) on April 23, 2019, for supervision of catering services, quality inspection in trains as well as catering units on Indian Railway premises.
"These contractual employees gave their best to the Indian Railways even during the peak of COVID-19 as they were actively engaged in the management and supervision of food delivery services in 'Shramik Special' trains run by the Indian Railways," he said.
'Shramik Special' trains were run by the railways last year following the COVID-19 outbreak to ferry migrants, who were stuck in different parts of country due to restrictions, back to their home states.
"To our utter shock, I am informed by these employees from various locations that they have been categorically told by IRCTC authorities to search for new jobs, adding further that after 20 days they would not be part of the service anymore," Jha said in his letter.
"The feeble argument from the IRCTC is that they were hired on a two-year contract which is ending now," he said.
Jha said that these supervisors are trained hoteliers and many have professional degrees in hospitality.
"We all know that the hotel industry was among the worst-affected during the COVID crisis and therefore, it is unimaginable that they would be employed by the hotel industry amidst an unprecedented crisis," the RJD Rajya Sabha member said.
"I remember during the course of an intervention by me in the Budget Session of Parliament, you had emphatically assured that nobody shall be terminated from their jobs," Jha said in his letter to Goyal.
The MP said the non-renewal of services of these men and women was against the assurance given by the minister in Parliament.
"This goes against the assurance given by @RailMinIndia on the floor of the house...shall do whatever we can," Jha also tweeted.
He urged Goyal to look into the matter with utmost urgency and save the jobs of hundreds of hospitality supervisors engaged with the IRCTC.
Earlier in a letter, dated June 25, to all railway zones, the IRCTC informed that there was no requirement for these contractual workers under the present circumstances and they be given one month notice and their contracts be terminated.
"The requirement of supervisor (hospitality) engaged on contract basis has been reviewed in the revised catering model and it has been decided that under the present circumstances, services of supervisor (hospitality), engaged on contract basis are no more required," the letter stated.
This virtually meant job losses for around 560 such workers.
However, after the workers took to social media and raised the issue, the IRCTC board rolled back the decision, but maintained that their two-year contracts are unlikely to be renewed.
Many such workers took to social media to air their grievances.
"@PMOIndia @RailMinIndia we are Hospitality supervisors working under IRCTC (Indian Railways). They fire us. So please save our job & family," tweeted Naveen Kumar.
"Sir, In this pandemic situation we don't have any other option for survival. So request you to please do something to save our job," tweeted Rahul Mona tagging the Railway Minister. IRCTC spokesperson Anand Kumar Jha said that currently, catering services in special trains are limited to sale of ready to eat food, packaged drinking water, tea and coffee, among others.
Base kitchens are non-operational and the scope of work for hospitality supervisors is very limited, the official said.
Regarding the period of contract of hospitality supervisors, he said that action is being taken as per terms and conditions of their contracts.