Workers of Greaves Cotton India Ltd, Petrol Engine plant at Gummudipoondi went on a one day symbolic hunger fast on Friday 17th June. Over 100 workers, with their family members participated in the hunger strike, highlighting the apathetic condition due to an illegal plant closure by Greaves Cotton India ltd management. The workers, who are affiliated to DTUC, refuse to accept the compulsory retirement offer forced by the management and demanded that the plant be reopened and they be allowed to continue their work like before. (click here for the article on plant closure by Greaves Cotton India Ltd and click here for more on the workers struggle)
Speaking at the demonstration, J. Chindambaranathan, Hon. President of DTUC, as well as the president of the Greaves Cotton India Workers Union, (Petrol Engine Plant) claimed that this was a clear case of victimization. He said that the entire workforce is being retrenched because they formed a strong union and demanded their rightful wage. “rather than discuss with them, the management has opted to close the plant and throw the workers out even though the issue is pending with the labour office” he said.
The workers have now been off work for over 50 days and have not been paid any wage for the last month. Inspite of 11 meetings with the management, the plant remains closed and the workers locked out. Speaking to Thozhillalar Koodum, Arumuga Chelvam, Gen Sec of the workers union said “There has been no movement in the negotiations. The management insists that we take the VRS package and leave. But we don’t see why we have to do that. The company is running profitably, they have illegally shifted the equipment to Ranipet plant and steadily shutdown operations here. Now they claim there is no revenue here, but they are producing the same volume from Ranipet. Our demand is that either the Gummudipoondi factory we reopened or we be given work at Ranipet. Workers are willing to go there.” He further added, “ the workers will not accept this forced retirement. This is cheating, we have atleast 25-30 years of service left, we have put in 12 years of work here. Our only demand was that while the company was making good profits, why not share it with the workers by raising our wages. Merely because we came together and began demanding our rightful wage, they have decided to throw us out. This is cheating and we will not accept this.”
Kumaraswamy, Gen Sec of the workers union at Royal Enfeild plant in Chennai, spoke to the workers and their families and said that the immediate task of the workers is to make the government recognize and act on the issue. Giving the workers a confidence boost, he said that workers from other factories are ready to support them in all ways including financially and they should remain stead fast against this assault on worker’s rights.
Mr. Sekhar and other workers of MRF plant, who had come in solidarity with the Greaves Cotton Workers, gave the fasting comrades juice to end their day long fast. The demonstration closed to high pitched slogans demanding restoration of jobs and the government to act on the demands of the workers
They are planning to take the agitation to the next level if the issue is not resolved to their best interests. In the mean time, the workers are demanding their wages for the past months and they feel there will be no other option but to go to courts if the company refuses to pay their back wages.