16,000 sanitation workers of East Delhi Municipal Corporation (EDMC) went on an indefinite strike on 11th October over non-payment of salaries and arrears. They also demanded cashless medical cards.
Mukesh Vaidya, President of the All Municipal Corporation Sanitation Supervisors' Union clarified that the workers are justifiably demanding three months' salary and pending arrears, besides regularisation of staffers. He added that "We are fed up with the excuses given by the EDMC officials every month. It has been three months and we have not received salary. We don't know how to run our homes. Those who were made permanent in 2003 and 2004 have not received their arrears yet. Also, half of the workers have not got their last year's Diwali bonus."
This is not the first time that the city’s sanitation workers are being denied timely payment of salaries. Previously too, they struck work in October 2015 and January 2016 on the same issue. The EDMC in particular, one of the three civic bodies created in 2012 after the trifurcation of the erstwhile unified Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD), has been claiming since some time that it is cash-strapped.
Every time they have been on strike, there has been immense pressure from authorities and even invocation of the Essential Services Maintenance Act (ESMA) to end the strike, on the grounds that the citizens are faced with a mountain of uncleared garbage. However, if the government and courts are so concerned about this, then they should ensure that the workers are paid their wages on time.
On 13th October, the Delhi High Court today asked the AAP government to release within three days the arrears of the sanitation workers. There is no report yet whether this directive of the court has been implemented. In the meantime, the workers have decided to allow the government a little time till the first week of November before resuming their strike that they have temporarily put on hold.