IN AN indication of the spreading worry about the industrial slowdown, major labour unions affiliated to CPI(M), Shiv Sena and MNS, as well independent unions, gathered in Nashik last Saturday, resolving to hold protests in every district of Maharashtra to demand protection from retrenchment and layoffs as well as scrapping of the proposed labour laws.
The unions plan to hold the protests in the districts between September 15 to 20. They would also hold a state-level protest, demanding the government’s intervention in providing minimum wages to the labourers who have lost their jobs.
National vice-president of CPI(M)-affiliated Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU), D L Karad, told The Indian Express that “more than 10,000 workers”, mostly on contracts, have lost their jobs in Nashik district in the last three months. Many companies are also observing “stoppage of work” or “no production days” between one to 10 days every month since June.
According to the records of the labour department, 2,042 factories employ 1.15 lakh people in Nashik district.
Representatives of CITU, All India Trade Union Congress (AITUC), Sena-affiliated Bharatiya Kamgar Sena, independent Rashtriya Shramik Ekta Mahasangh, the MNS labour wing and Bosch Employees Union attended the meeting.
Karad, while addressing a gathering of 200 representatives of unions from Mumbai, Pune, Nashik and Aurangabad, maintained that thousands of contractual workers have been asked by their companies not to come to work.
“In some cases, the workers have not been paid for four to six months. The situation is deteriorating… Many workers are thinking of committing suicide like farmers, thinking that it will resolve their issues. A few months ago, we convinced two workers not to commit suicide,” he added. “Also, the companies might reduce wages. The unions must not agree. The workers will lose everything they have earned so far,” said Karad.
Uddhav Bhavalkar, a CITU member from Aurangabad, said that the situation may worsen in the next two months before Diwali. “Some companies may not even give bonus to the labourers, citing the slowdown. So, we need to fight on all fronts.”
Pravin Patil, the president of Bosch Employees Union, spoke about the impact that the slowdown has had on labourers. “The Bosch plant in Nashik, which will complete 50 years this year, has never incurred any losses so far. But it didn’t give customary sweets to its labourers on Independence Day, citing the slowdown,” he said.
With the layoffs and uncertainty of jobs hanging over their heads since the last few months, labourers in Nashik seems to be struggling with their monthly expenditures.
Chetan Sonawane, a permanent employee with Sipra Engineers Private Limited, said his company, which manufactures engine parts of two and four-wheelers, has so far announced two temporary stoppage of operation. “It has intimated that there will be another no production day in five to six days,” he added.
Another employee, Santosh Phalke, said the stoppage of work has impacted 28 of the 76 permanent employees. “This is illegal. Non-payment of wages during this period is impacting the labourers and their families, as they are finding it difficult to pay EMIs and other expenditures,” he added.
The situation is not much different elsewhere. Atmaram Daware, a permanent employee of ALF Engineering Private Limited, which manufactures chassis, said contractual labourers have been hit the most. “The company has around 300 permanent and approximately 700 contractual labourers. As of result of the company receiving less number of orders, the shifts have been reduced to two from three. The contractual labourers are getting work only for 10 to 15 days a month since the last three months,” he added.
“There were three no production days in June and one this month so far. Only permanent employees receive part wages on such days,” said Daware.
Sources said that Mahindra and Mahindra, the biggest factory in Nashik, has around 2,700 permanent employees and approximately 5,000 contractual labourers. More than 300 small companies, which have around 10,000 employees, are dependent on it as it supplies vehicle parts. In the last two months, there have allegedly been three no production days in Mahindra and Mahindra.
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