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Deepavali lights off, contract workers of Madurai Corporation in a fix 

There were a total of 67 contract workers in the street light section whose employment period ranged from two to 14 years and 32 of them were orally informed that they were terminated.

Published: 27th October 2021 09:43 AM  |   Last Updated: 27th October 2021 09:43 AM   |  A+A-

LED street lights

LED street lights (Photo | EPS)

Express News Service

MADURAI: When *Karthi (name changed), a contract worker with the street light wing of Madurai Corporation, reported for duty on October 16, he was not aware that he was to be laid off from the job that fed his family for over 10 years. One among many reasons Karthi and 31 other such workers were given was over/under qualification.

According to sources, there were a total of 67 contract workers in the street light section whose employment period ranged from two to 14 years. On October 16, 32 of them were orally informed that they were terminated. Upon seeking explanation they were told that they were either overqualified (irrelevant degrees) or under-qualified (those who finished Class 10 and 12) for the job. Only 35 others who completed ITI courses have been retained.

"Though I have a diploma in Electronics and Electrical Engineering, I joined the corporation as a contract worker in 2009 as I could not find any other job. Starting with a monthly salary of Rs 3,500, all I earn now is Rs 14,000 a month. I have taken loans and arranged family functions depending on this job. If we are over/under qualified, is it not the responsibility of the government to give us an alternative job that fits our qualification rather than terminating us with no prior notice?" asked Karthi.

Despite being ineligible for any government allowances/compensations, the workers said, they were deployed for frontline duty in containment zones when Covid cases were at its peak. "We were not paid extra money for such works. Why were the qualifications not verified back then? With Deepavali festival round the corner, what are we supposed to tell our families?" asked *Kalai Arasan (name changed), yet another worker.

The termination of the 32 workers has not only affected them and their families, but also the public. "The terminated workers have been replaced with unskilled permanent workers who have no practical knowledge on electrical issues in street light maintenance. This adds to the workload of the other 35 contract workers. While one worker was earlier attending to 10 complaints a day, they now have to attend at least 22 complaints, leading to delay in redressing the public grievances," the workers added.

Responding to the issue, Corporation Commissioner KP Karthikeyan said the tender seeking 'qualified' manpower supply was what sought by the corporation. "The tender was awarded in 2018-19.  However, many workers without proper qualifications were found to be deployed. This makes the contract invalid. Notice in this regard was sent to the contractor before a month. A fresh tender would soon be floated to fill the vacant posts."

He also clarified that the corporation deals only with the contractors and not directly with the workers. However, a few workers have made representations and they would be considered based on their qualification. "In larger public interest, it is mandatory to deploy qualified workers in the field," he added.



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