On February 8th, permanent workers of the MEPZ factories PMI and Venture lighting organized a mariyal (road roko) outside MEPZ (Madras Export Processing Zone). More than 500 workers participated in the protest and they stopped traffic on the major highway for about 20 minutes. Later the protesting workers were taken away by the police and detained till the evening. The protest was organized by CITU. In both factories, workers have long-standing problems, and have faced lock-out since late December 2016.
Venture Lighting factory manufactures bulbs and other lighting equipment. They have
310 permanent workers (which includes 70 women workers), 350 contract workers and
120 management staff. A woman worker participating in the protest said that women in the arc tube department had been facing sexual harassment by one of the supervisors for a long time. Matters came to a head, when on the morning of 21st December 2014, two women were not allowed to join work, as they had reported in the wrong shift. All the workers protested leading to a sequence of events, which culminated in the factory locking out the workers.
See related story on working conditions of Venture Lighting factory
On 27 December, the ACL (Additional Commissioner of Labour) advised the Venture Lighting workers to go back to work. But when they went to the factory, the management required them to sign an undertaking to get back. The workers refused to sign. This undertaking had not been mentioned in talks with the ACL. On 20 January 2017, the ACL issued another advisory. Since the workers are not allowed to join work without the undertaking, they organized the mariyal. The permanent workers have been locked out for about 50 days now. The factory is operating with contract labour.
PMI company manufactures aerospace parts. They employ 260 permanent workers, and additionally there are contract workers. In this factory, workers had to work for 10 to 12 hours everyday, without any overtime payments. A 12(3) agreement was signed with the union on 30th May 2016 but was not implemented. A new manager has brought INTUC into the factory, and workers are being pressurized to join the INTUC union. 7 workers have been suspended and 1 worker has been dismissed for refusing to join INTUC. These include some union representatives.
After raising these issues, on 22 December 2016, the management locked out all the permanent workers. To get back to work, workers who are members of CITU union are being asked to sign an undertaking. The workers participating in the protest are demanding that
(i) the dismissal of HR and production manager who are destroying industrial peace,
(ii) dismiss of another production manager who attacked and harmed a QC manager for refusing to approve a batch of products that did not meet quality specification.
(iii) Reinstate workers who were dismissed and suspended.