Wives of two workers of Force Motors, Akurdi, Sunday completed 34 days of hunger strike demanding salary hike for their husbands. Bharati Ashok Shelar (50) and Hirabai Ashok Reddy (48), had started their strike September 1.
The two are part of a team of six women who began their strike on the day — the other four withdrew due to health issues.
“The salary of Force Motors’ workers has not increased since 2004. The management has refused to sign a wage agreement with the workers,” the two women alleged.
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Both the women are surviving on tap water. Both spend their time lying on bed, only getting up when somebody comes to see them. “No, I have not eaten anything for the past 34 days, I have not even sipped tea,” says Bharati Shelar.
Shelar says she is suffering from diabetes, but is determined to continue her hunger strike till her “husband and other workers” meet justice.
The women claim they are not against the company.
“We have not stopped the functioning of the company, we want it to grow. Our hunger strike is in support of our husbands,” says Shelar. Reddy shares the same view.
Aparna Warudkar, who is monitoring the hunger strike, said, “It is a fact that the two have not eaten anything in past one month. However, when their condition deteriorated and we feared for their life, we had to admit them to hospital where they were put on saline. But after feeling a little better, they have returned to fast,” she said.
Labour leader Yashwant Bhosale, who heads the Rashtriya Shramik Aghadi, alleged that two squabbling unions are responsible for the strike. “The hunger strike could have ended long ago if concerted efforts had been made…Now the it has created a record. I don’t remember any hunger strike that has lasted this long, especially by women residents,” he said. NCP leader Sanjeevani Pandey, who met the women last week said, “It is an unfortunate scenario that women who are ailing have been forced to strike with no solution in sight.”
When contacted, the Force Motors management said all sincere efforts had been made to resolve the differences with the workers but the efforts had not yielded results. “Because of the adamant attitude of the workers, the company lost its competitive position in the market. In 2013 and 2015, we had made efforts to bring workers together to sign a wage accord, but it did not materialise. The company has also extended a helping hand to its workers,” said the management. The management added that it fully sympathises with those who are on strike and also with the workers and their families. “We have done our best to resolve the strike, we have shown readiness to sign an accord, help workers, conduct discussions and negotiations… We sincerely feel that all this should end in the interest of the workers,” it stated.