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A workers’ agitation at the Aditya Birla Group firm Jaya Shree Textiles in Hooghly’s Sreerampore took an ugly turn on Thursday when protesters allegedly tried to block vehicle of a senior management official. The strike — which has been going on since May 16, halting work at the factory that manufactures linen fabrics, worsted yarn and wooltops — has been termed “illegal” by the company.
The blocking of the vehicle sparked a clash between the workers and management staff, after which police was informed. The workers accused police of opening fire, which they denied.
“The management is running the factory on their own terms, not paying heed to our demands or problems. With police supporting them, the matter got worse on Thursday,” a labourer told The Indian Express.
Madhav Upadhyay, leader of the Workers’ Union, said, “The management has been rigid and their approach towards workers have not been very cordial. They were not ready for a talk.”
“It was a labour dispute. Labours were agitating and pelting stones. Police intervened and the mob was dispersed. No bombing and firing took place. It (the allegation that they opened fire) is completely baseless,” SP (Hooghly) Sukesh Jain said.
Ranjan Banerjee, senior VP (HR and IR) Aditya Birla Nuvo Limited (Jaya Shree Textiles), said that it was his car that had been blocked during the agitation. A letter submitted by the management to the police said: “The union on May 16 distributed pamphlets among the workmen which incited an illegal, unjustified and lightning strike in the B shift on Tuesday from 2.30 pm in the worsted department. Therefore, the workers of the said department forcefully closed down operations and pressurized other workmen …”
It further said: “They then forcibly broke open and damaged the motorized gate of the main plant, obstructing traffic and movement of managers and staff to and from the factory and finally brought the entire plant to a standstill. Further, they illegally confined the unit head and other officials till midnight. On Thursday, a large group of workmen aided by outsiders with criminal background blocked the main check post gate, shouted slogans, stopped managers and staff from entering the premises, gheraoed the car of Mr Ranjan Banerjee, senior VP (HR and IR), with attempts being made to overturn the car and cause grievous injury. Suddenly, the mob turned violent, beat up our security guards and seriously injured our administration manager Rakesh Pandey, who was bleeding profusely from the head and sustained injury on his chest.”
“…We have been under huge cost and competitive pressure over the last few years, which has led to a sharp decline in our unit’s profitability…in such conditions, it would have been difficult to even consider a wage hike, especially when the current Long Term Settlement on wages signed in July 2015 is in vogue till July 2018…,” the letter also stated.