Maternity benefits still elusive for municipal workers

Maternity benefits still elusive for municipal workers

Little has changed for pregnant pourakarmikas since 2017 when the BBMP started paying their salaries directly. DH FILE PHOTO

Pourakarmikas (municipal workers) are entitled to maternity benefits: six months of paid leave and reimbursement of medical expenses. But that's only on paper. 

The reality is far harsher for thousands of pourakarmikas, most of them women, who sweep the streets every day to keep Bengaluru neat and clean. 

The most that pregnant pourakarmikas get is maternity leave, without pay. And in many cases, there's no guarantee that they'll keep the job after returning to work. 

The All India Central Council of Trade Unions, Karnataka, has been trying to secure maternity benefits for pourakarmikas for the past few years, but the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) wouldn't listen. 

"Every pourakarmika is entitled to six months of paid leave and reimbursement of medical expenses as per a high court ruling. But the BBMP isn't giving them anything. We made several representations to the BBMP but nothing happened," said Appanna P P, secretary, AICCTU, Karnataka. 

Little has changed for pregnant pourakarmikas since 2017 when the BBMP started paying their salaries directly. Up until then, pourakarmikas were paid by garbage contractors. According to Appanna, BBMP officials have promised to consider the demand for maternity leave benefits but didn't specify a timeline for it. 

There have been instances of pourakarmikas having been sacked after returning from maternity leave. "BBMP officials cited late comeback or gave some other excuse to remove them from the job. I have seen some of my friends face this," a pourakarmika said on the condition of anonymity. 

When contacted, Mayor Gangambike Mallikarjun sought to paint a different picture. She claimed that permanent pourakarmikas were receiving all the maternity benefits. "I have been told by officials that permanent workers are getting all the (maternity) benefits. Contract employees will get them soon. A proposal has been sent to the BBMP commissioner," she said. 

Meanwhile, the BBMP has started giving weekly offs to pourakarmikas. They have to work only half-days on Wednesdays and Sundays. But garbage auto drivers and helpers are yet to get weekly offs. 

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