Report by Kamgar Ekta Committee (KEC) correspondent
According to the Public Enterprises Survey conducted by the Department of Public Enterprises, the total workforce in central public sector enterprises (CPSEs) was 17.3 lakhs in March 2013. Ten years later, in March 2022, this number dropped to 14.6 lakhs! That is, there was a reduction of 2.7 lakh workers in the past 10 years. Further, the survey revealed a drastic increase in the recruitment of casual and contract workers—from 19% of total CPSE employees in 2013 to 42.5% in 2022!
This means that the number of permanent workers in CPSEs has reduced by much more than 2.7 lakh because recruitment on contractual basis has more than doubled. Almost half of all CPSE employees are employed on contract!
BSNL has reduced 1.8 lakh jobs in the last decade, and MTNL has reduced nearly 35,000. These companies have been made ineffective by deliberately stopping recruitment and reducing jobs. When one worker is doing the work of three, it is no wonder that these companies have been declared “sick” and put up for sale! After privatization, 27,985 employees of Air India lost all job security.
The survey shows increases in the workforce of companies like Indian Oil Corporation, Mahanadi Coalfields, and Northern Coalfields. However, it is well known that it is the number of contract workers that is being increased. In fact, more than 70% of Coal India workers are recruited on contract!
Contract workers have no job security or social security; they do not possess the hard-earned rights that regular workers do. Contract workers are exploited in terms of high workload, low wages, unpaid leaves, no job security, and no pension. Moreover, to save costs, contract workers are not given adequate training for their jobs in most cases. Thus, for example, when untrained electricity or railway contract workers are sent on the field, their lives may be at risk as well as the lives of thousands of consumers and passengers. When contract workers die on duty, their name is rarely even recorded. Their families are left high and dry.
These workers work hard day and night only to live under the constant stress and fear of losing their jobs. This also leads to severe physical and mental health problems. Moreover, women contract workers are expected to work at any time – day or night – at lower wages for the same work.
The non-filling of vacancies has increased the workload of existing workers—regular and contract—by several times. Due to thousands of vacancies, many loco pilots in Indian Railways are being made to work for 14-16 hours continuously, which is a direct attack on the health of workers!
The contractualisation of such a large portion of the workforce must alarm us. When the rights of one section of the working class are snatched, it weakens the entire working class. Often when permanent workers fight for their demands, their fight is weakened if contract workers are made to do their work. Increasing contractualisation has grave implications on future jobs for youth and children of today. Contract workers find it very difficult to raise their voices and fight for their rights because they can be easily dismissed. It is the duty of permanent workers to fight for the regularization of contract workers!