Statement by Veej Kamgar, Abhiyante va Adhikari Sangharsh Samiti and Veej Kantrati Kamgar Sanghatana Sanyukta Kruti Samiti.
On 28th and 29th March, 2022, 86,000 workers, engineers and officers from Mahanirmiti (MahaGenCo), Mahapaareshan (MahaTransCo) and Mahavitaran (Maharashtra State Electricity
Distribution Company Ltd., MSEDCL) as well as over 34,000 contract workers from 26 unions under the leadership of the Veej Kamgar, Abhiyante va Adhikari Sangharsh Samiti (Struggle Committee of Electricity Workers, Engineers and Officers) and the Veej Kantrati Kamgar Sanyukta Kruti Samiti (Joint Action Committee of Electricity Contract Workers’ Union) had gone on strike. The strike was called to protest against the Central Government’s policy of privatizing the power industry and the state government’s policy of privatizing power companies as well as for other demands.
In the backdrop of the strike, the workers’ organisations held a meeting on 29th March with the Hon. Energy Minister, Dr. Nitin Raut, in which he declared the following stand: Electricity workers, engineers and officers are mine. After the strike I had issued orders that no action would be taken against any employee. If any company has taken such an action, it should immediately be taken back. My stand is that electricity companies will not be privatized. The state government has opposed the central government’s Electricity Amendment Act and will continue to do so in future.
The decision to call off the strike had been taken due to this stand. The Hon. Energy Minister had also promised the workers’ organisations that a meeting would be held soon to discuss their long pending issues. Accordingly, on 21.04.2022, a meeting was held in Prakashgad, the Head Office of Mahavitaran. It was presided over by the Hon. Energy Minister. The management of the three companies was present, as were the 38 representatives of the organisations that had gone on strike.
In the beginning the Hon. Energy Minister expressed his regrets for the delay in holding the meeting. He instructed the Hon. Director (HR), Dr. Gite to start the meeting. Dr. Gite informed about the Notice issued on the background of the agitation and the meeting held with the workers’ organisations thereof. He requested the office bearers of the Sangharsh Samiti to read the points in the Notice one by one and discuss them.
Points (1) and (2) – The three electricity companies should not be privatized. Opposition to the Central Government’s Electricity Amendment Act 2021:
In this regard, the leadership of Sangharsh Samiti pointed out to the Minister how all over the country and in the state, privatization has failed in the places where privatization / franchising was done and private industrialists are coming to the power companies with a view to make profit. Therefore, the power industry should not be privatized in any way. This stand was taken on behalf of the organizations.
As the stand of the Energy Minister and the trade unions is the same, it was demanded in the meeting that a written agreement should be made with the trade unions.
Hon. Energy Minister: He said that at present there is a financial crisis looming over the power companies. Power companies across the country are in trouble. However, I have organized this meeting to address the pending issues keeping in mind your sentiments. The unions have helped me a lot in the last two and a half years and due to the cooperation of the unions, record revenue has been collected by the MSEDCL. Workers and engineers performed well even during the Corona epidemic and supplied uninterrupted power. I am saddened by the loss of so many employees and engineers during the uninterrupted power supply. I express my condolences to their families. Congratulations to all for their good work.
The government had come up with a good scheme for 44 lakh agricultural power consumers. However, only 4 lakh agricultural consumers participated in this scheme. The government expected more agricultural consumers to participate. However, we could not achieve that objective.
We need to think about where we fell short. We succeeded in recovering Rs. 3 crore arrears of electricity consumers. We also carried out a large scale operation to catch electricity theft and achieved success.
We have reduced production cost by 34 to 35 paise per unit in Mahanirmiti Company. Mahanirmiti has made a profit of Rs. 338 crore this year. We will continue to adhere to the principles of MOD for all the sets of Mahanirmiti Company.
MSEDCL is also in the forefront in the country at various levels. Mahapaareshan Company is also performing well. Therefore, no decision has been taken at the government level to privatize the power companies.
The state government is opposed to the Electricity Amendment Act of the central government.
3) Policy to hand over the hydropower plants operated by Mahanirmiti Company to private Industrialists:
In this regard, it was stated on behalf of the office bearers of the Struggle Committee it is the hydropower plants which generate electricity at the lowest cost and the electricity generated from these hydropower plants is supplied to the power consumers of MSEDCL at cheaper rates.
Hydropower plants are the only means of generating surplus power in case of emergency. Therefore, these hydropower plants should not be privatized. In this regard, a meeting should be held with the Minister of Water Resources and the stand of trade unions should be presented to him and you should take initiative to organize a meeting for this. This was put forth on behalf of the organizations.
Hon. Minister of Energy: He said that it is my wish that the Hydropower Station should remain under the control of MahaGenCo. He also said that he has written a letter to the Minister of Irrigation and also a letter from Mahanirmiti Company has been given asking them to hand over the hydropower plants to us in the future. “I will personally take the initiative to convene a meeting at the level of Irrigation Minister soon,” he said.
4) To fill the vacancies in the three power companies and to fill the backward class backlog by taking the pending promotion panel.:
The office bearers of Sangharsh Samiti pointed out to the Minister of Energy that 34% of the posts are vacant in Mahanirmiti Company, 40% in Mahavitaran Company and 43% in Mahapaareshan Company. The senior level system panels are set up. However, there are thousands of vacancies in the Accounts, Human Resources and Engineers category in the state level seniority list at the Head Office. The Department of Human Resources is not filling up these posts.
The post of Executive Director (Human Resources) of MahaTransCo has been vacant since 2017. The post of Director (Human Resources) was created when there was no need.
The post of General Manager (Human Resources) of MSEDCL has been vacant for the last several years. The post was given to a person from a specific cadre for four years and the work was handled. Therefore, promotion of employees is stalled.
We also forcefully demanded that the promotion panel should be convened immediately and the vacancies should be filled. Similarly, different policies are being adopted in all the three companies to accommodate the heirs of deceased workers. In this regard, the process of accommodating the heirs of deceased workers in all the three companies should be started in a uniform manner. Despite having conducted interviews, many cases of heirs of deceased workers in MSEDCL are still pending at the Head Office level as well as on the field. Immediate decision should be taken in this regard.
In the meeting, the Hon. Energy Minister directed the HR departments of the three companies to complete the process of setting up promotion panels in the three power companies within two months and start the recruitment process for the vacancies in the three companies immediately. He also stated in the meeting that orders should be issued to the effect that the heirs of deceased workers holding educational qualifications should be immediately employed.
5) Immediate cancellation of transfer policy in all three companies, revised transfer policy should be decided in consultation with trade unions. Interference in transfers should be stopped immediately. The policy laid down by the Holding Company should be revoked and a transparent transfer policy should be formulated. Considering the present financial condition of the company, administrative transfers should not be made this year:
On behalf of the Struggle Committee, the transfer policy of the companies was also strongly opposed. There is huge interference in these transfers and transparency is disappearing. As a result, there is dissatisfaction among the employees, engineers and officers and due to the transfers, the image of the company is deteriorating in the minds of the people.
Many officers and engineers use their contacts to stay in the same place for years. Therefore, needy workers and those who need transfer on medical grounds do not get transferred and they are treated unfairly. There should be transparency in this regard, was the stand taken.
The Hon. Energy Minister said that transfers on request and administrative transfers should be made according to the company policy and my ministry does not interfere at all in this matter. If anyone misuses my name, it is not correct. The managements of the companies should formulate a transparent transfer policy in consultation with the Struggle Committee. Such instructions were given by the Human Resources Department. Once the transfer policy is finalized, the Government of Maharashtra should take action in this manner by May 31.
6) Contract and outsourcing workers should be given permanent employment protection without contractor for 60 years i.e. job security:
All the three companies have a large number of contract workers and these contract workers are being exploited by the contractor. When new workers are hired, contract workers already working are removed and when new contractors come, old contract workers are removed and new contract workers are hired. A contract worker who has been working for 20 years and the newly hired contract worker get the same pay. This is unjust. This should be eliminated by taking into account the period of service and fixing the policy for payment of salary and providing non-contractor protection up to 60 years. Many state-owned power companies across the country made contract workers permanent and increased their wages. Many such examples were given. The demand for protection of contract workers was forcefully made on behalf of the Struggle Committee and the Joint Action Committee of the Contract Workers Union.
The Hon. Energy Minister said that contract workers have made tremendous contributions to the power companies. All these workers are from deprived sections and I also want to protect them. Because I am the son of a mill worker and I have experience of what happens at home after my father’s job was lost. It is my stand that no injustice should be done to these workers. I instruct the HR departments of all the three companies to look into the legal aspects of providing protection to them and submit a proposal to me and I will try to take a positive decision on this proposal from a humanitarian point of view. This is what he promised.
Concluding the meeting, the Energy Minister said, “I will hold a meeting with you in the next one year.” Meetings should be held once in 6 months at the level of Chairman and Managing Director. He directed the administration to hold a meeting at the level of Director (Human Resources) once in 3 months with the office bearers of the Struggle Committee.
The Energy Minister further said that at present there is a shortage of two thousand to two and a half thousand megawatts of electricity in Maharashtra. We are trying our best to fill it. We are trying to ensure that there is no load shedding anywhere in Maharashtra by buying electricity from other sources. The Union Government, the Union Ministry of Energy and the Union Ministry of Coal are not providing the required amount of support and coal. That is why we are in trouble. Even the gas we get is insufficient. At the same time, all the sets of Mahanirmiti are having record production without going beyond the principle of MOD.
We should all cooperate for the achieving the goal of the Mahanirmiti Company of generating 8,000 MW of electricity. He expressed such an expectation. He also appealed to the MSEDCL to provide better service to the power consumers, try to reduce power theft and line losses and to recover arrears.
Veej Kamgar, Abhiyante va Adhikari Sangharsh Samiti and
Veej Kantrati Kamgar Sanghatana Sanyukta Kruti Samiti.