Railway employee unions said the new order would create great resentment among railway staff, and this would hamper smooth and safe train operations
Railway employees are protesting the Railway Board’s decision to scrap night duty allowance (NDA) for non-gazetted railway employees with a basic pay of ₹43,600 and above.
“What started as providing tea and bun as incentives during the British rule for employees discharging duty at night has gradually become part of the salary as night duty allowance since 1961,” said Southern Railway Mazdoor Union assistant divisional secretary, V. Ramkumar.
Stating that keeping awake during nights is against the natural rhythm of the human body, he said that employees who give up their sleep were vulnerable to various diseases. The night duty allowance is only to compensate and encourage employees to come forward to work at night.
“It is one of the most quintessential allowances for the railways, in order to pay for the hardship during night duty, to essential train-passing staffs members,” said divisional secretary of Dakshin Railway Employees Union (DREU), R. Sankaranarayanan. He said that night duty causes mental as well as physical exhaustion and hence the night duty allowance was meant only for the eight hours of duty between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m.
The unions feel that the new order will create great resentment among the railway staff and this will hamper smooth and safe train operations.
“When trains are run round the clock, two staff members — the loco pilot and assistant loco pilot – have to be vigilant every second to run the trains carrying hundreds of passengers. The order would jeopardize the safe running of trains,” Mr. Ramkumar said.
The DREU said that the order would adversely affect the station masters, loco-pilots, guards, ticket-checking staff and commercial clerks, whose duty revolved around train operations, safety, monitoring, coordination and management of traffic.
These workers had a vital role in the running of goods and parcel trains even under the threat of the COVID-19 pandemic, Mr. Sankaranarayanan said.
The unions have termed the new order retrograde, and asked the Railway Board to withdraw it.