On 28th November, about 1450 conservancy workers and 350 malaria workers went on strike, and protested outside Ambattur Corporation office. Their demand is that each of them be paid their salaries in cash or cheque. So far, the practise had been to pay a group of twenty workers by cheque, instead of giving a cheque to each individual worker.
L. Sundararajan, president of Chennai Corporation Red Flag Union described the details to us. The workers are organized into groups of twenty, and are employed under the National Urban Livelihoods Mission. The workers were paid via a cheque to the group as a whole. This cheque was subsequently cashed and the money was distributed to the individual workers by the conservancy inspector. There was corruption at this step, as the workers did not get the full amount. It had been a long standing demand of the workers that they be paid individually and not as a group. However matters came to a head last month. The group check was given out on November 7th, and before it could be cashed, demonetization came into force on 8th November. Because of withdrawal limits in the banks, the cash to pay the workers could not be obtained, and as a result, workers were not paid their monthly wage.
The workers protested on 21st November and demanded that they be paid individually in cash, and struck work on 28th November. Their demands are successful — officials have agreed to give cheques to individual workers. Workers who do not have bank accounts will be given assistance in getting an account.