New Delhi, July 30 : Agitated with the sudden termination from jobs, the contractual workers of Centre-run Lady Hardinge Medical College (LHMC) and associated hospitals hit the streets on Thursday.
Under the banner of All India Central Council of Trade Unions, dozens of aggrieved protesters gathered outside the LHMC, a dedicated Covid-19 facility, and protested against the hospital administration. They said that over 75 of the Multi Tasking Staff (MTS) at the hospital had been “illegally” asked to leave from August onwards.
Besides, they also leveled extortion charges against the coterie of intermediaries, including the hospital officials. According to them, the contractual workers are being demanded to pay a hefty sum of money to secure their jobs.
Veenita, 35, (name changed) claimed that the workers were threatened following which many used up their savings to meet the extortion demands. “Those who budged to the extortion demand were able to save jobs,” she said.
The workers also claimed that the demand for cash went as high as Rs 80,000. “We don’t even receive the minimum wages. How would we be able to pay such a hefty sum,” asked Vijay Kumar (name changed).
Many of the workers have been employed since 2015 as MTS staff who were engaged in patient care duties and maintaining medical wards, including those with Covid-19 patients. The MTS employees usually help out with patient management, starting from dressing them to moving them from one ward to the other and sometimes disposing of used protective gear. Third-party contractors hire them.
However, usually, their period of employment keeps getting revised. The current contractor of these workers is Jai Balaji Security Services.
According to the claims, as many 200 workers, out of the total 275 contract staff at the LHMC, have succumbed to the pressure and accepted the alleged demand for money. These employees have not been asked to leave, the workers added.
IANS tried to contact the contractor, but the calls went unanswered. Multiple calls to Sonu Kumar, Deputy Director (Administration) at LHMC, also went unanswered.
The workers also claimed that they had been asked for money in the exchange of job security twice in the last five months. They said that similar demand was made in February as well, which most of them obliged. “We had no option. We were desperate. Now we have understood that this demand will keep increasing if we keep on accepting,” added Vinneta.
Surya Prakash, state secretary of AICCTU who spearheaded Thursday’s protest, said that termination of these workers was illegal.
“The job of these workers is perennial in nature, and they can’t be replaced at one’s wishes,” he said.
Prakash also referred to a 2015 order of the Delhi High Court judgment, according to which principal employers are restrained from replacing one contractual employee with another in such cases.
Prakash also said that the core of the problem lay in the hiring policy. A new contractor is hired every six months, which brings in new workers as part of the MTS Staff. This lacuna gives space to illegal activities like favoritism and extortion.
Meanwhile, the All India Kamgar Union, along with 35 of the MTS staff, has filed a petition against removing these workers in the Delhi High Court. The matter is listed for hearing on Friday before the court of Justice Pratibha M Singh.