New Delhi: Workers with the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) have launched a ‘non-cooperation movement’ and threatened to not show up for their duties during Delhi’s vaccination drive unless their salaries are paid.
Speaking to ThePrint, A.P. Khan, convener, Confederation of MCD Employees Union said that around 22,000 corporation workers from the North, South and East municipal corporations received rosters for the upcoming drive but all of them are set to boycott it.
“Delhi needs us, and we’ve always been there to serve the city. But unpaid for months at length now, we’re on the verge of starvation and are in no position to work,” he told ThePrint. The vaccination drive begins this Saturday.
About 1 lakh employees of the North Delhi Municipal Corporation (NDMC) and East Delhi Municipal Corporation (EDMC) have been on strike since 7 January. However, the issue of non-payment of salary has been ongoing since last year.
Among those joining the boycott are nurses, ASHA anganwadi workers, woman health visitors, teachers, security guards and sanitation workers. These health and frontline workers have been Delhi’s ‘coronavirus warriors’ since the beginning of the pandemic, having helped conduct serosurveys and provide aid in Delhi.
Speaking to ThePrint, NDMC Mayor Jai Prakash said it was not right for workers to refuse to volunteer.
ThePrint also reached Vikram Dev Dutt, principal secretary of Delhi’s Health & Family Welfare department, and EDMC Commissioner Dr Dilraj Kaur for a comment via phone calls and WhatsApp messages but there was no response till the time of publishing this report.
‘Doctors paid, shows classist treatment’
NDMC workers claim they haven’t been paid for six months, while EDMC workers say they haven’t received salaries for three months. The South Delhi Municipal Corporation (SDMC) has been paying its workers, but Khan says they have decided to join the non-cooperation movement in solidarity.
Indumati Jamwal, a nursing officer at Hindurao Hospital said doctors haven’t joined the strike since their salaries aren’t pending.
“The classist treatment here is apparent. Any organisation would clear its D-level employees’ salaries first and then move up. Here, it’s the reverse; they first clear A-level employees’ salary while the rest of us are left to hang dry,” she said.
“You’ll get enough doctors at the vaccine drive, but will have to make-do without nurses, technicians, and other staff,” she added.
Vibha Singh, senior vice-president of the Nagar Nigam Shikshak Sangh, a teachers’ association covering all three MCDs, said the situation has been tough.
“Many teachers are skipping meals, some even go days without eating. To sustain themselves, some have even taken to selling vegetables and clothes. How do you imagine we’re going to serve Delhi empty stomach?” she said.
‘Not right to boycott’
When the first phase of the immunisation drive begins on 16 January, the Delhi government will administer vaccines from 89 hospitals, of which 36 are government-run. It plans to increase this tally to 1,000 vaccination centres spanning hospitals, dispensaries and schools. But without the required strength of civic workers, that task will be difficult to achieve.
Jamwal, the nursing officer at Hindurao Hospital, said that since Delhi government employees have been deputed even at hospitals, the strike won’t impede the vaccination process.
“Delhi government officials can come and start the drive, our strike won’t cause any hurdle, but none of our staffers will report on duty,” she said.
NDMC Mayor Jai Prakash, however, said it wasn’t right for the workers to refuse to volunteer.
“At four hospitals, we’ve made full arrangements of enough volunteers, but the situation will be tight at other centres if civic body workers continue their boycott. Going forward, 68 dispensaries will also be included in the vaccination process, and it’s wrong on the workers’ part to boycott it. It harms their interests too, they’re getting a free vaccine right now, they might not get it later,” Prakash told ThePrint.
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