Rendered jobless and without salary since March, over 1,200 school bus drivers and cleaners of around 11 private schools in Surat Thursday submitted a memorandum to Surat district collector, district labour commissioner and district education officer (DEO) seeking government intervention in getting their pending salaries of four months from school authorities or bus contractors.
The drivers who submitted the memorandum are those who are either employed directly by various private schools or through labour contractors to run the school bus services.
Following the nationwide lockdown due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the schools were closed and the new academic session is now being held through online classes, resulting in the drivers-cleaners becoming jobless with severe financial distress.
The bus drivers employed by private schools said when they demanded salary from school authorities, the latter allegedly refused and asked them to find another job. The bus drivers who are providing services to schools through labour contractors said that the latter are allegedly refusing to pay the drivers claiming that they themselves had not received any money from the schools.
Average monthly salary of a school bus driver is between Rs 12,000 and Rs 15,000. The cleaners get salary of around Rs 8,000 to 9,000 per month.
The drivers and cleaners approached Surat-based Gujarat Labour Union (GLU) who helped them submit a memorandum to the state authorities on Thursday.
Kishor Patil (35), a one of the drivers, said, “I have been working with the same school for the past five years. We used to work from 5 am to 7 pm, picking up and dropping students and teachers. I live with two sons and wife in a rented house in Vesu. During the lockdown, we used up all the savings. Our two months’ house rent is also due and we are facing severe financial crisis. We sold off my wife’s gold ornaments also.”
“Our group of around 50 bus drivers and cleaners contacted the contractor for salary for March, April, May and June, but they told us to contact the school. When we contacted the school authorities, they refused to pay and asked us to find another job. Who will give us jobs now?… I have exhausted all my savings… So we approached the labour union…,” Patil added.
GLU president Dashrath Piplodiya said, “Around 1,200 school bus drivers and cleaners have complained that they had not got salaries since March. We have submitted a memorandum to the district collector, labour commissioner and DEO office and have sought their help to organise a meeting with the representatives of these schools for pending salaries. If we don’t get justice, we will file petition in Gujarat High Court in the coming days.”
Attempts to contact private schools concerned failed.
Assistant Labour Commissioner SG Nayak said, “We have received the complaint. We will call the school authorities and listen to their side and later take a decision.”
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