Permanent workers of Sanmina Corporation in Oragadam blocked the Labour Commissioner’s Office at DMS on 31st August, to pressurize the Labour Department for not taking action on the industrial disputes raised by them. The management subsequently suspended two workers on 4th September on various pretexts. Workers have alleged that these were workers who had gone to the protest and the management was relentlessly pursuing a policy of victimization of workers who are merely exercising their rights.
Sanmina workers had asked the management to recognize AICCTU as their representative earlier this year. In an industrial dispute raised this year by AICCTU, the management has said that it has recognized and signed a collective wage agreement with INTUC, providing Rs 2000 as increment for the period October 2016 and September 2017. But the agreement failed to cover the period between April 2016 (when the previous agreement terminated) and Septerber 2016 (when the new agreement was signed) causing a loss of Rs 10000/- per worker. AICCTU representatives say that the Labour Department Conciliation officer has unilaterally termed the industrial dispute as illegal. According to AICCTU, the conciliation officer can either recommend INTUC as the representative or give a failure notice on the raised industrial dispute. He/she doesn’t have a jurisdiction to declare the dispute as illegal. That power rests with the labour court.
Sanmina workers have been protesting since March this year demanding recognition of their union. However, the management has responded with repression on workers. It withheld upto 21 days of wages of workers for participating in a 4 day sit-in strike in March. Recently, the management installed, what it called an ESD discharge machine, near the toilets. Earlier, this machine was installed only in front of the factory. According to insiders, the workers need to swipe their cards in the machine before and after using the toilets and hence this is just used to monitor the time taken by workers in their brakes. As the number of toilets are less (10 toilets for over 400 workers), sometimes, the time taken by workers can be invariably long and yet, these workers are given showcause notices and suspensions. This is especially hard for women workers, who might need more time, during menstruation, say workers.
These acts of intimidation and inaction by the Labour Department in Irungattukottai have prompted the gherao protest by the workers. Workers say that there were about 100 workers who participated in the protest. The Labour Commissioner and Deputy Labour Commissioner at DMS held a meeting with AICCTU and worker representatives and have promised to transfer the industrial dispute from ACL to DCL after 5th September. They have agreed to take cognizance of the following demands and ensure speedy resolution.
- All cases regarding Sanmina to be transferred to DCL after 5th September.
- Ensure speedy resolution on wages withheld by Sanmina
- Conduct enquiry on the collective wage agreement signed with INTUC and the time period lapse between April 1st and September 30th.
- Recommend the management to negotiate with majority union AICCTU
- Conduct a hearing on the issues of restroom breaks and mandatory rest periods under Unfair Labour Practices.