All India Food and Allied Workers Union staged a rally at the local grain market in support of its demands.
The workers gathered from all over Punjab. The main demand of the union was to effect direct payment of wages to contract labour by doing away with contractors in state food agencies Pungrain, Markfed, Punsup, Punjab State Warehousing Corporation and Punjab Agro Foodgrain.
Though the rally was organised against the government policies, Rajya Sabha MP and SAD secretary general Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa was present as a special invitee.
Khushi Mohammad, general secretary of the workers' union, said, "While the state government pays the contract amount to contractors as per tender, the latter pays just a miniscule part to the labourers, thus pocketing a huge amount."
He alleged, "Contractors get Rs. 3.50 per bag from government agencies but pay only Rs. 1.20 to labourers."
He demanded abolition of contract system in the interest of labourers. "The contractors have no licence, no registration and they don't obey the provident fund rules," he added. It was alleged that contractors deduct both employee's and employer's shares of PF from the wages. Even the deducted amount was not being deposited with the provident fund authorities.
"If the contractor does not comply with the necessary statutory obligations, then the same should be the responsibility of the principal employer, that is the government department, till such time any policy for regularisation of workers is formulated," demanded the union leaders.
The leaders blamed the government for being indifferent to workers' demands of equal pay for equal work, implementation of wages under the Minimum Wages Act and providing them basic amenities. The workers had no security in old age or in case they got a severe injury, they added.
Dhindsa assured the gathering that he would take up the matter with the chief minister and the food and supplies minister.