Voice of Maharashtra

*Unique 5-day Satyagrah by UNI employees ends in the hope that dues will be paid


Management accepts the backlog of 56 months’ salary, says it represented a “grave state of affairs”*
On October 2, a unique Satyagrah, or peaceful Gandian protest, had begun on the streets of New Delhi. Sitting on protest, and a relay hunger strike, were a group of senior journalists demanding wages that had remained unpaid for 56 months! Ironically it was not really covered in the major news outlets. Ironically also because it was undertaken by UNIFront, the banner formed by a group of  employees of the United News of India (UNI), a news agency that most news organisations once depended on for breaking news and news from far away districts of the country. Those sitting on hunger strike too had come from places outside Delhi, and were holding demonstrations on the pavement right outside the head office of UNI in the heart of the National Capital.
Five days later, the serving and former employees of UNI, who were protesting the massive delay in their salaries and backlogs payments of dues pending for decades, marked their first victory and called off the agitation. The UNI management, for the first time ever called UNIFront for three rounds of  discussions ”which resulted in agreement on several points and assurances of action on others,” UNIFront said. They later issued a joint Statement of UNI Management and UNIFront according to which, “The management team headed by Ajay Kumar Kaul, Editor-in-Chief, accepted that the backlog of 56 months’ salary, which is a legacy issue, represented a grave state of affairs.”
 
There is a massive backlog of pending salaries
The management, according to the members of UNIFront, has said that they will “clear the backlog in due course.” The management has now started disbursement of “Rs. 15,000/- as part-payment of salaries to current employees and Rs. 10,000/- of former employees", the payments will be made on a monthly basis.  The UNIFront, members who sat on dharna and persuaded the management to invite them for talks included M L Joshi, Shailendra Jha, Imran Khan, Gurmeet Singh and Mahesh Rajput, who are all from various state bureaus of the organisations and have been fighting for their basic right of a timely salary for a long time.
There are also around 200 employees who have retired or resigned, and 68 have now been “paid Rs. 10,000/- as part payment  towards their pending dues,” the UNI management said. However, the UNIFront has asked that the amount be increased to Rs. 15,000 which is at par with the current employees. The management also agreed to share with the employees “detailed statements regarding their terminal dues, including Gratuity”. Till now, the employees were kept in the dark and had no option but to hope that a salary was credited in their account.