MSFM housekeeping staff goes on strike; demand hike in salary
Manipal: Clad in their sky blue uniforms, more than 1000 housekeepers from Manipal Servicecorp Facility Management (MSFM) collectively staged a protest on September 18 in front of the Sarojini Ladies Hostel, adjacent KMC Greens, with a plea to increase their salary.
The housekeepers have been protesting for the last two days waiting for the management to consider their petition. During the process, the housekeepers alleged that they neither were allowed to drink water nor use bathrooms within the vicinity.
On talking to one of the housekeepers from the hostel who wished to be anonymous, said, “We are treated as garbage with no one to care for us! The supervisors heading us are uneducated which lead them to cast such torture on us. We are not provided with basic holidays which are promised to us. Even on using the very few leave rendered to us, we are marked absent. There is an utter lack of respect towards our needs and concerns. Adding to that, we only receive a Xerox of our salary slip.”
Sharing their grievances, other members of the crowd also spoke about how they were given the same salary even after working in the organisation for more than five years; they were not provided with basic infrastructures like toilets, with ten people couching in one hall and sleeping on rags left by the previous student inhabitants of the hostels.
The housekeepers present for the protest also claimed that their fellow workers were kept detained in the respective hostel blocks with cell phones confiscated, to prevent them from flocking together and participating for the protest. Moreover, they were given constant threats of losing their job if they continued the demonstration.
A notice was issued to the workers by Manipal Staffing Solutions (MSS), a branch under the MSFM that is in-charge of the housekeeping. They accused the demonstration to be illegal, as it was organised without prior knowledge of the organisation and threatened the demonstrators of a lathi charge on continuing the protest. In one of its past procedures, MSS asks these housekeepers to sign a rejoining form after every six months, leading them to be insecure about their job.
“The government has laid certain salary scales on different categories such as skilled and unskilled labour. As per the government, a net of Rs 4,037 should be paid to the housekeepers, who come under the unskilled labour category. However, we are providing them with a net of Rs. 5,161, with additional tuition fees of Rs 1000 and Rs. 2,00,000 of free insurance,” said Col. N.C. Nanjappa, General Manager, MFSM.
Later he added, “It is indeed very sad of them to stage a strike on these matters. They came to us on September 13 and they were asked to revert back to us on the 15th. However they didn’t turn up and are now directly staging a protest. It’s better they realise on their own what they are doing.”
On reacting to the allegation of Xerox of salary slips been handed over to the housekeepers, Col. Nanjappa reacted saying, “These are sheets generated from our computer database which are misunderstood by them to be as Xerox copies.
Promod Madhvaraj, the Youth Congress leader and a businessman from Malpe, joining the solidarity of the house keepers said, “They feel that they are not adequately compensated in proportionate to the work they do. The MAHE management believe that there should be cost cutting. However, we have asked the management to cut costs elsewhere and not at the cost of these poor individuals. Management is dragging their feet and delaying decisions.” The businessman has also been providing food and water to the housekeepers on strike.
After protesting for hours, the crowd of housekeepers proceeded towards the .edu building shouting slogans like “We want Justice” in Kannada. The whole matter was settled when a few representatives went and had a talk with Dr. H. S. Ballal, Pro Chancellor, Manipal University (MU).
“Dr. Ballal said that our needs will be taken into consideration and asked for time till next month before our salary could be revised. However, if our salaries are not revised till next month, we may start protesting and holding strikes again,” said one of the representatives, who wished to be anonymous.
Raghupati Bhat, Member of Legislative Assembly (MLA), Udupi District also paid a visit to the protestors during the demonstration.
Sub-edited by Bhavani Seetharaman