The Andhra government’s move to lay off 7600 contractual employees of APSRTC midst the pandemic attracts criticism from all corners.
The nationwide lockdown imposed for three months to contain COVID 19 has adversely affected the 7,600 contract and outsourcing staff of Andhra Pradesh Road Transport Corporation (APSRTC). According to the State Transport Minister Perni Nani, APSTRC has suffered losses of about Rs. 700 crores due to the lockdown. Due to the relaxation of the rules, APSRTC has resumed its operations within the State.
APSRTC’s decision to utilize the services of the regular employees instead of contract and outsourced employees has sparked the issue of layoffs. Despite the Minister’s statement confirming that there won’t be any layoffs and that it would be a temporary arrangement, the APSRTC management indicated that there would be layoffs as the outsourced staff was orally asked not to report for duty.
A WhatsApp message during mid-May by Madireddy Pratap, Managing Director (MD) of APSRTC to the Depot Managers (DM) stated that only after full utilization of permanent employees, outsourced contract employees would be called on for duty. Few concerns were raised against the MD as he is taking unilateral decisions without involving the employee unions.
In the last month, Depot Managers (DM) has issued the oral instructions to 5,500 contract and outsourced employees not to report to the duties. This staff consists of mechanics, data entry operators, maintenance department personnel, employees working at the garage, and control points whose duties are managed by the conductors at present. There is uncertainty among the 2,000 contract and outsourced employees consisting of attendants and sweepers currently reporting to the duties.
Despite working for 10 to 15 years, there were no salary hikes for these contract and outsourced employees. Those who joined as unskilled labour remain in the same position without any promotion and earning only Rs.8000 (exclusive of PF deductions). Salaries were not paid to the contract and outsourced staff for April and May 2020.
On 20th March 2020 Mr. Heeralal Samariya, Secretary, Minister of Labour and Employment, wrote a letter to all the Secretaries of the State departments. Mr. Heeralal Samariya wrote urging the owners of the Public/Private establishments not to terminate the employees, particularly casual and contract workers and pay them salaries even if the place of employment is non – operational. The State government defied the orders of the Centre by laying off of the RTC employees through oral instructions.
It is astonishing to see State defying the Centre’s appeal, while the need of the hour, in certainty, is for the government to stand by its people. The Government of AP must come front and take measures to accommodate these employees who are on the verge of job loss.