Around 200 permanent workers mainly operators and technicians are on strike in front of Asian Paints Factory in Mambakkam near Sriperumbudur. Workers coming to the first shift of Asian Paints Factory in Mambakkam near Sriperumbudur on December 20th morning found their access was blocked by 30 private guards who have been hired by the factory and started an indefinite strike. This follows the breakdown in negotiation between AICCTU union representing the workers and the management in front of Assistant Commission of Labour, Labour Department.
Asian Paints Sriperumbudur factory produces around 400 KL of paints employing about 200 permanent workers, few trainees and about 300 contract workers. The contract workers are employed through various agencies including Sahaya Annai, UDS, Prasad Contractors, Devendran Contractors. All workers except few support staff are men. While most of the workers are from Tamil Nadu, about 8 permanent workers are from other states including Bihar and Orissa. The plant operates in 3 shift with about 80 permanent workers in one shift.
In 2010, a collective agreement was signed between the management and CITU representing the workers then. The workers say that there was a management change six months ago and there have been systemic targetting of workers since then. The workers wage which is at 11000Rs was deducted on various pretexts including lack of quality and the workers ended up with wage as low Rs 3000. Around 110 workers have been given show cause notices, 18 workers suspended and 10 workers have been given warnings in the last 6 months.
Frustrated with the actions of the management, the workers now under AICCTU union gave a legal notice to the management with 3 main demands which include full salary to workers, revocation of the charges against all workers and just bonus payment. The workers say that while the bonus was over Rs 17000 for last year, the management is insisting on only Rs 8400 bonus this year, while the bonus for executives and engineers have increased.
The last trilateral meeting between workers, management and the labour department on 17th of this month failed with the management refusing to accept any of the demands of the workers and the workers decided to strike since 20th. On 20th workers decided to stop workage after the packaging of 300KL paint that had been produced for the paint would go moldy if its not packaged immediately. But the regular transport provided by the factory from Chengelpet, Kanchipuram, Guindy, Thiruvallur did not show on 20th morning. The workers used public and private transport to commute to the work and found themselves barred from entering the factory by a group of 30 ‘goondas’ whom they had never seen before(At the time of the interview, couple of these guards were posted at the gate). With no other recourse, the workers decided to go on strike in front of the factory since 20th.
The workers say that the management is continuing production with contract workers and 13 trainees and the production is at a reduced capacity of 40KL per day. They say that the trainees have not been sent outside the factory for the last 2 days and contract workers are being overworked. The workers are trying to track reports of a worker who had an accident though no nearby hospitals have reported the accident.
Workers are also in touch with their counterparts in other Asian Paints Factories nationally.
Asian Paints has factories in various parts of India including Andhra Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Gujarat and Haryana. Workers in Andhra Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh are said to have extended their solidarity for the struggle. Workers from nearby factories including Hyundai, Tenneco, C&F, Fenner India, Doowon Automotive, Hinduja Foundaries have extended their support to the struggle including financial support.
A meeting on 23rd in the labour department will direct the next course of action for the workers who are determined to continue their struggle.