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School cleaners contract abuses fixed term contract

School cleaners contract abuses fixed term contract

The recent termination of contracts causing nearly 45,000 school cleaners losing their job due to the new terms initiated by the Education Ministry reveals the discriminatory nature of the contract system practiced by the government.

PSM accuses the government for blatantly abusing fixed term contract provision. Since the privatization of school cleaning and security services in the mid 1990’s, all cleaners and security personnel who worked directly under the government before became contract workers of contractors appointed by the Education Ministry every three years.

The Education Ministry appoints contractors via a tender system to carry out cleaning works in all schools throughout the country. These contracts are fixed term contracts for a period of three years. Once the contract expires, the employee’s status is in a limbo while they wait for the new contractor to hire them or not.

This cycle continues every three years and the workers are in a peculiar situation, where they might have worked continuously in the same school, doing the same task but employed by different contractors every three years without a break in their service. Even though the work always exist and permanent; but it is camouflaged/colored/disguised as a fixed term contract, falsely.

Fixed term contracts are only to be used for seasonal, piecemeal or temporary work, where the work ceases to exist or it is expected to be completed within the contract period or where the service of the worker is only required temporarily.

Realizing the potential of fixed term contracts being abused by employers, the International Labour Organization Article 2(3) Convention No. 158 specifically mentions that there has to be safeguards in place to prevent fixed term contracts from being means of avoiding the protection given by the convention.

PSM is appalled as to how the government has allowed such discriminatory practices to carry on exploiting workers at the expense of enriching a rentier contractor class. Due to the nature of the fixed term contract, these employees are stripped of their legal benefits as provided under the Employment Act.

Even though they have worked continuously in the same job for many years, just because their contract ends every three years, they are considered new employees by each new contractor given the contract by the Education Ministry.

They do not enjoy, annual leave, sick leave, increment in accordance to their years of service. They receive no salary increment, only the basic minimum wage set by the government. And when terminated they are not entitled to any Employees Layoff and Termination Benefits as per the Employment Act.

PSM calls on the Education Ministry to immediately stop this discriminatory practice and abolish the fixed term contract system and replace it with a genuine contract of service for all workers.

This practice of contracting and/or sub-contracting work which is permanent and long term is wrong in law, in violation of the Employment Act 1955.

It is illegal and ultra vires to the Constitution of the country which guarantees the Right to Livelihood. We call upon the Education Ministry and the Government to correct this blatant injustice by providing permanent employment and job security to these workers who suffered in silence for so long since the introduction of contract work.

By V Selvam

The writer is a PSM central committee member.

The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of The Leaders Online.


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contractEducation Ministryschool cleaners