Garbage will not be collected and streets not swept from Wednesday as employees of the Shillong Municipal Board (SMB) will go on strike over a pay dispute.
Today the Shillong Municipal Employees Association (SMEA) decided to start with a ‘pen down’ strike on Wednesday followed by an indefinite ‘tool down’ strike from Thursday to protest the state government’s resistance to paying them according to the Fifth Pay Commission rates.
The 650 permanent and temporary SMB staff, comprising sweepers, truck drivers, etc have been looking forward to Fifth Pay Commission salaries since 2017 but their hopes were ignored and they then took their case to the Meghalaya High Court.
SMEA president S Pyngrope said, however, that though the High Court gave a judgement in the workers’ favour in March 2020, the state failed to pay salaries according to the new pay structure for more than half a year. That forced the SMEA to file a contempt petition with the High Court as well as letters to the Chief Minister, Governor and Urban Affairs Minister and they were finally paid according to the Fifth Pay Commission – but for just one month, i.e. July 2021.
In October, he further explained, the state government issued an order to withhold August and September salaries, with its apparent intention being to revert to the Fourth Pay Commission.
“We approached the High Court again and it instructed the government to pay our salary within 10 days. This ten-day timeframe ended last Friday,” Pyngrope said. “Yesterday another court hearing on the matter took place and the government lawyers assured us that the government is going to pay us but what came as a shock to us was that the instruction was to pay us as per the Fourth Pay Commission.”
This, he added, would not be accepted “at any cost”.