On 14 September Odisha State electricity workers held a protest in the state capital Bhubanewar, demanding a massive wage hike (an increase from 4000 rupees per month to 18,000 per month) and the regularisation of outsourced employees. 5000 electricity workers from across the state that are members of the union NOBSM attended the protest, before union officials met with the Minister of Energy and the Energy Secretary.
“Living standards for these workers have gone backwards since the state electricity network was privatized”, said R.C. Khuntia (President of the Indian National Building, Construction, Forest and Wood Workers’ Federation), who was present at the rally. “Today workers have given the State Government three months in which to act.”
The workers were demanding a significant increase in wages, from only 4,000 rupees a month (US$68 a month) to 18,000 rupees a month (US$280 a month), citing the huge rises in costs of living in recent years.
On top of this, working conditions for electricity sector workers in Odisha State are extremely dangerous, as NOBSM General Secretary Askaya Tripathy explained to the World Congress on Health and Safety at Work in Singapore earlier in the month.
“On average, 50 workers a year are dying to bring electricity to the state of Orisha”, said Tripathy. “Safety is a complete afterthought for us. We do this job with no personal protective equipment, and with unreliable machinery. We are being massively overworked and receive only meagre wages.”