19th September 2016, Harbour, Chennai
Around 20 women construction workers assembled near Chennai District Collectorate to petition the Tamilnadu Government to enhance the maternity benefits that are being provided through the construction workers welfare board. They were joined by leaders from AITUC’s national, state and local units. They raised slogans demanding that their maternity benefits be enhanced to Rs 3000/- a month from the present lump sum of Rs 6000/- (Rs 1000/- per month). They also demanded that the benefit period be extended to 9 months on par with Tamilnadu Government Workers. After nearly an hour of demonstration, a delegation of women construction workers, led by Com. R. Susheela, state president of National Federation of Indian Women (NFIW) and state committee member of AITUC met Chennai district collector and presented a petition to TN government.
Com. Sampath, (North Chennai AITUC office bearer) pointed out that over 1000 crores has been collected as construction cess for welfare benefits to the construction workers, yet implementation of various schemes were poor. He also highlighted the problems with the new labour legislations and claimed that the Modi Government that was so enthusiastic about providing huge tax subsidies to private companies is against any form of labour organization.
Com. Waheeda Nizam, All India Secretary of AITUC thanked the Tamilnadu government for enhancing maternity benefits for women government workers. Highlighting that construction work was even more stressful, energy intensive and dangerous, she made a powerful case to extend similar benefits to construction workers. “women workers in construction sector get a paltry 6000/- as benefit. This forces them to continue work even during late pregnancy. This is a serious health hazard to both the mother and child. The government has enough funds to support this scheme. So we want Rs 3000/- a month and for 9 months as this would enable the workers to have safe and healthy labour and the child will also be healthy and normal.”
Speaking at the gathering, Com. K. Ravi, All India General Secretary of AITUC, said that the task undertaken by the women construction workers was much more arduous and therefore they should be provided maternity benefits that would allow them to stay away from construction work during pregnancy and post delivery. He pointed out that even as they demand for an increase in these benefits, it was also important to point out that even the said benefits that women workers are due to receive is being poorly implemented leading to lot of financial and work burden on them.
Com. Susheela along with four women construction workers met the district collector and submitted a petition to TN Government to enhance these benefits. Com Susheela, said that the collector received the petition and immediately referred it to the labour department. Similar petitions are being handed over to all district collectors across Tamilnadu to impress upon the government the urgency and importance of such a move.