MADURAI: Over 400 non-teaching staff of Madurai Kamaraj University (MKU), paid a consolidated monthly salary of Rs 8,000 to Rs 20,000, have had their contracts renewed every 89 days by the varsity for the past 10 years. While workers said the practice has left them with neither job security nor opportunity for career growth, a section of administrators claim the system has created a fertile environment for corruption while increasing MKU’s expenses. Varsity officials said the higher education department wants these staff relieved.
Of the Rs 7 crore, MKU spends towards salaries each month, close to Rs 30 lakh goes to the non-teaching staff employed as Casual Labours (CLRs) and Consolidated Pay Casual Labours (CPCLRs). The CLR workers, including drivers, gardeners and certificate preparing staff, earn Rs 500 per day for 22 days in a month, not exceeding Rs 10,000. Most of them have been in the same position for a decade.
According to an administrator at the university, the practice has persisted so authorities can avoid following the State’s roster system. “The actual sanctioned strength of permanent non-teaching staff in the university is 398. Currently, there are 120 such employees. A permanent non-teaching staff’s starting salary will be at least Rs 30,000 and the higher education department will pay their salary. For years, university authorities have been appointing consolidated staff instead to avoid following the State government’s roster system,” he said.
The system leaves the workers in a vulnerable position. “If any corruption allegation is made, no formal inquiry is conducted against them as they are contract workers. They are summarily dismissed,” the administrator said. One man, employed as a CLR, claimed other staff could make them scapegoats to hide their own corruption. “CLRs or CPCLRs are not in positions of power, so cannot take bribes on their own. In some instances, they act as middlemen for higher authorities,” he said.
‘Save MKU Coalition’ Convener and former syndicate member of MKU, R Murali, said the system was cruel. “There are several third-generation contract workers still hoping to get a permanent job. Making them work as CLRs, CPCLRs for 10 years is against labour laws. Action must be taken either to regularise the staff according to their qualifications or create permanent vacancies,” he said.
MKU Registrar in-charge V S Vasantha said Higher Education Secretary D Karthikeyan had insisted on relieving these staff at the last registrars meeting. “There are several universities following this practice. Once a V-C is appointed, he or she can resolve the issue,” she said. Karthikeyan could not be reached for comment.
Labour Department Joint Commissioner, Subramanian, said if the employees had worked continuously for 480 days, they would be eligible to claim a permanent position, provided they have proof. “Eligible candidates can approach our department.”