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Senior Southern Railway officials propose roster, staff allege compulsion

Even as they remain concerned over the coronavirus that has left several railway staff including senior railway officials testing positive and three staff succumbing to the infection, many are complaining of facing pressure from senior officials to report for work.

Senior Southern Railway officials propose roster, staff allege compulsion
The locked gates of Southern Railway headquarters in Chennai (file photo)


On Wednesday, only 290 of the around 1,450 staff of the Chennai railway division turned up for duty.

An administrative staff at the headquarters said cases were reported in departments including a catering inspector in commercial department, an employee in the RPF wing in NGO building at the divisional headquarters and a chief commercial inspector on the fourth floor of Moore Market Complex building.

“Some employees are attending duty to avoid losing travel allowance. Some came fearing their bosses’ displeasure. They became wary in the last few days after the officials tested positive, and some stopped coming after the ADRM’s driver succumbed,” said a commercial staff at the divisional headquarters.

A June 1 circular from the personnel department has worsened their fears. Reiterating that employees above 55 and those with comorbidities may be allowed to work from home, it mentioned preparing roaster for those working at office premises, which has created confusion.

“Earlier, there was no roaster. When it is prepared, it mounts pressure on us to come to work. How can they not report to work after featuring in the roaster, and that too when their bosses are at office,” said a commercial clerk.

“The staff fear the abstention might manifest as undesirable transfer, denial of promotion or reflect in their service register. After the June 1 circular, many employees are under pressure. Officials are asking them to give in writing to not include them in the roaster. They fear that it might be used against them later,” the staffer added.

“Let the management arrange transportation as they did earlier for essential staff. Not all own vehicles; many depend on EMUs and buses. While remaining silent on transport arrangement, the management insists on us giving written undertaking to avoid inclusion in roaster. Even employees with comorbidities are willing to return to save their jobs if the management arranges transportation,” a senior staffer affiliated to an influential union said.

The circular was issued on Monday to allay the fears of the workforce following representation from SRMU that the staff should not be asked to report for work due to the rapid spread of the disease in Chennai.

It came also in the backdrop of allegations that some officials were forcing subordinates, even those with comorbidities, to report to duty in the headquarters. Some even accused officials of threatening junior staff to attend work. The complaints were mostly from clerical staff, while the field staff, most of whom are trade union members, have stayed away.

One of the staffers told DT Next said he suffered from chronic hypertension, but his superior compelled him to reach office, which he eventually did. “The two staff who died last week were working till they took ill. The officials might argue that they did not opt to work from home. How will they justify it now? Who is responsible for her demise,” argued a senior official.

“If they had strictly followed work from home policy last month, many departments in the zonal headquarters would not have had to close and the staff would not have abstained since last week,” argued the official.

SRMU general secretary N Kannaiah said those about 55 years need not come for work. “The general manager assured me that it is strictly followed. Only a maximum of 200 employees, who are required for generating bills, and officials are reporting for duty. There is no pressure to come to office. The union is constantly monitoring the situation,” he said. When contacted, an official claimed that no staff in any department was compelled to come to office. “We have only asked those with comorbidities to give it in writing. This week, only 20 per cent of the staff have come. Be it working from home or exempting vulnerable employees, we are fully flexible,” said the official.

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