India: NOBSM demands investigation into electricity worker’s death in Orissa

02 November 2017 04:29


The NOBSM union are demanding an investigation into the tragic death of an electricity distribution lineman who died on the job from an electrical fire early on the morning of Monday 31 October in Orissa State, India. The worker, who was a contract worker, was not provided with safety materials by the contractor, even though the firm had received funding to cover the cost of the materials by the State.

General Secretary of NOBSM union that represents around 5,000 of these workers, Akshaya Tripathy, said that sadly this was not unusual. “At least 50 workers die a year in Orissa’s distribution network, in totally unavoidable circumstances. We are demanding immediate assistance and compensation for the workers’ family, and a thorough investigation into this death.”

“This is another senseless and unnecessary fatality in what is fast becoming one of the most dangerous employers in the region”, said BWI Regional Representative Apolinar Tolentino. “Privatisation of the distribution network has been an absolute disaster for workers’ wages and conditions, and it has done little to enhance access to electricity for rural communities.”


Occupational health and safety is not the only area that has been affected by privatisation. Wages have totally stagnated – workers recently held a protest calling to lift the wage floor from INR4,000 (US$68) to INR18,000 ($US280) – and workers are often forced to work shifts of up to 18 hours. They hope to begin bargaining for a collective agreement this month.

Staffing levels have scarcely risen since privatisation despite a massive increase in the network size. Further, the over-reliance on contract workers with little to no job security means that many labour violations and accidents don’t get reported, as workers fear for their job.