Workers of Suja Shoie company in Villianallur of Nagapattinam District and local community came together to hoist their union flag in front of their factory on January 9th. Even though they had applied permission, the local police barred them from the protest meet at the factory gate. The workers were able to hoist the flag only after the intervention of Deputy Superintendent of Police.
The Suja Shoie company which produces hydraulic presses, has been operating the plant for last 13 years in this neighbourhood. Over 200 male workers and 200 female workers are working in the plant. The male workers are ITI and other graduates and female workers have passed 10th and 12th. All the workers are employed as contract workers and have not been made permanent even though they have been working for more than 7 years. They are paid a wage of Rs 7500 to Rs 12000 per month.
The workers have unionised under AICCTU and have pressed for various demands. The workers say that the management had signed an agreement with then union Suja Shoie Workers Welfare Union in 2010 but refuses to recognize the current union. About 32 workers are also pursuing a legal case for regularising the workers and for collective bargaining since 2014. Since then, the workers say that the management has been victimising the workers by paying these workers only Rs 7500 per month. The other workers are being paid Rs 12000, allege the workers.
In 2014, a woman worker had experienced chest pains. As per the earlier agreement, the factory was supposed to have an ambulance which was still not supplied by the management. When the workers demanded for the ambulance, hot words were exchanged between management and the workers. This has led the management to dismiss three workers in the factory since July 2016.
The workers say that since then the management has also intimidated workers from joining the union threatening to terminate the workers’ employment if they joined the union. The workers also say that the Human Resources are discriminating the recruitment on the basis of caste and locality. Due to this, the workers’ strength has come from 200 to 30, say the workers. In this context, the flag hoisting assumes significance for the workers to show solidarity and organize in the shop floor.
The protesters have placed the following demands before the management:
. Reinstate the dismissed workers Suresh, Ganesh Moorthy and Chiranjeevi
. Recognize and negotiate with the union
. Do not manage workers as bonded labourers
. Implement labour laws in the factory
. Give preference to local workers irrespective of caste and religion
. Implement same wage for same work
. Treat women workers with dignity
. End contract work and regularise all workers