Thiruvananthapuram: Like there are ‘undesirable elements’ in all professions, a few head-load workers are indecent, but that does not mean all of them are bad, a union leader in Kerala said after a worker was arrested on charges of threatening a woman IAS officer.
“We do not agree with the indecent way the person who is now behind bars behaved with the young lady IAS officer. Please, not all are like that person,” A. Vijayan, a leader of a Left trade union, said.
In June, when IAS officer T.V. Anupama along with her mother moved to the Kerala capital after she was posted as food safety commissioner, her household items were unloaded by people known to her.
However, for a few days she was threatened by local head-load workers as their job was done by others and they demanded ‘nokku kooli’ (wages for not doing any job, but just for watching others do the work).
This forced the woman officer to file a police complaint.
Last week, 38-year-old Murali, a leader of the Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU), was arrested and sent to judicial custody on charges of threatening the woman.
There is a perception here that the biggest evil among the trade union movement in Kerala is the ‘ruffian’ attitude of head-load workers whose job is to load and unload things – be it in shops, residences or offices.
The A.K. Antony government in 2003 had brought in a law to reign in these head-load workers and from that time, they had no right to load or unload things at residences.
However, when the V.S. Achuthanandan government assumed office in 2006, it diluted the law that saw police having no right to intervene in disputes regarding workers and customers.
When the Oommen Chandy took over as chief minister in 2011, former engineer and Labour Minister Shibu Baby John held numerous rounds of talks with trade union leaders and fixed rates for all items whenever the services of head-load workers are sought.
“We have put these rates on the website of the labour department and we have informed all residential associations. These workers have no right to demand work to load and unload things at residences. But those who wish to employ them can do at the rates fixed by us,” John said.
The minister has now called a meeting of all trade union leaders to tell then that unfair practises should be avoided as the state capital has already been declared a ‘nokku kooli-free’ city.