23/8/2012, Chennai: Today the workers went back to their respective jobs after striking for 17 days of strike at the L&T ECC (engineering, construction and contracts) fabrication site at Neervallur, near Sriperumbadur, Kancheepuram. The strike was withdrawn after a negotiation was reached between the senior L&T management and representatives of contract workers led by CITU Kancheepuram District Secretary in the presence of Jt. Commissioner of Labour (JCL) at Chennai. The agreement will be signed on 28th August 2012. The agreement reached was a ‘royal’ wage increment of Rs 35 for all the workers! In January, the company had given a wage increment ranging from Rs 5-15 to migrant workers, but not to the local workers. In April, the company gave wage increment of Rs 20 to the local workers, Rs 50 to a few. In April, after CITU formed a union at the plant, the work shifts, which were earlier arbitrary and anywhere between 8-12 hours, got streamlined to 3 shifts (8.30-5pm; 5.30pm-1.30am; 1.30am-8.30am). But workers had complained of forced OTs, which still continues.
According to one of the contract worker who was present at the JCL negotiation, “Yes, the increment of Rs 35 is a pittance, but we want the company to come to an agreement on paper first. We will push for minimum wages after this. The management tells us that company made no profit last year, despite the fact that we produced goods worth Rs 322 crores at this site last year and the company threw a dinner party worth Rs 48 lakhs to celebrate the high production for its top management and technical staff and their families. Nothing for the workers who produced them. Infact, EEC management kept on saying they will invest in toilets, bathrooms and clean drinking water facilities for the workers and it will cost them Rs 20 lakhs, therefore they cannot give increment to the workers.”
It’s difficult to imagine that one of India’s largest multinational engineering and construction company- Larson &Toubro, which has featured 4 times in Forbes Fab 50 list in 2010 for being ‘best companies in Asia Pacific region’ and has been ranked 14 in the 2011 Fortune India 500 list of the largest Indian companies by total revenues (Rs 520.89 billion in 2011), can only afford Rs 35 increment for its workers. And does not even want to pay this amount because they need to invest in constructing toilets, bathrooms for its workers!