AIALA Convention in Dharmapuri ### Pricol Workers on Indefinite Fast

AIALA Convention in Dharmapuri

A Convention demanding 2 acres land, 5 cents home-stead land, 200 days work and Rs.200/day wage in NREGA was held by All India Agricultural Labourers’ Association (AIALA) at Dharmapuri in Tamil Nadu on 15 June. Dozens of rural poor, 95 percent of them women, participated in the convention. Com. Balasundaram, State Secretary of the Party, came down heavily upon the CM-in-the-making, Mr. Stalin, the Dy. CM, for being lavish in allocating lands for the corporate sector in the name of development but now absolutely silent about the promises made by his government on 2 acres land to the rural poor.

The proceedings of the convention were conducted by Com. Ramakrishnan, AIALA district organizer. AIALA State General Secretary Com. Janakiraman, AIPWA state leaders comrades Thenmozhi and Usha also addressed the gathering. State Committee Members Ilangovan and Chandramohan also participated in the convention.

Pricol Workers on Indefinite Fast

Workers of the Pricol factory who are conducting a protracted struggle against the management for more than 2 years, are on an indefinite fast from 15 June 2009 demanding that the TN government intervene to resolve their issues.

As per the long term settlement, the management has to give DA and salary increase once in July 2007 and again in July 2008. This amount is from Rs.948 to Rs.1498 per worker for over 1500 workers. This increase is given as notice pay only when workers are dismissed but this wage increase is not paid while they are in service. The amount due for the workers and withheld by the management in this period alone, under this head alone would run to a few crores. The balance sheet of the company for the financial year 2008 – 2009 shows that the expenditure under the head salary (employees cost) has decreased, which never happens under normal circumstances.

Workers, in the name of trainees and contract labourers, are employed in work of permanent nature. The labour department has sent its officials and conducted a raid and has found for itself that trainees and contract labourers are employed in work of permanent nature. The labour department has already issued show cause notices to the management on these two issues.

Now the workers have demanded the government intervene on these issues. Reminding that the government itself has indicted the management, the workers are demanding that the government pass orders under section 10 B of ID Act, 1947 directing the management to clear the DA and wage increase due for the workers and stop employing trainees and contract labourers in work of permanent nature.

The management is going on a victimization spree since the workers formed their union and it has intensified it in the recent months to the extent of cutting their salary for flimsy reasons down to Rs.1500. June being time for school and college admission and paying fees, which is exorbitant in TN, workers had no other way but to take up a form of struggle that would draw the general public in the area in large numbers.

Twenty nine workers including 5 women workers began their indefinite fast in the union office which is situated near the plant. The management switched off even the flash lights on its building which was lighting the union office entrance too, where the workers were on fast and which was busy day and night and flooded with workers of other factories in and around Perianaickenpalayam, relatives and neighbours of the fasting workers.

Police officials on Day 1 tried to arrest the workers for attempting suicide. But the union gave a representation to the police explaining that they are not on fast unto death but on indefinite fast, that their purpose is not to die but to press their just demands and they have taken up this form only to live in dignity.

The TN assembly session began on June 17 and a team of Pricol workers came down to Chennai and met the Labour Minister, MLAs and asked them to raise their demands in the assembly. They also met the labour department officers, local DMK ex-MLA, Panchayat President of the area, and leaders of workers’ unions in the area. AIADMK and PMK MLAs moved resolution for a discussion on the Pricol workers issue in the assembly.

Pricol workers distributed 50,000 pamphlets in Coimbatore to take the message of the struggle to the people at large. Over 100 flex boards carrying the photograph of the fasting workers were erected on the highways from Mettupalayam to Coimbatore covering more than 30 kms.

More than 1000 workers who are going to work are on lunch boycott from 16 June and there was no call or instruction from the union for this action and the workers themselves have taken up this measure to express their solidarity with those who are on indefinite fast.

AICCTU has sent telegrams to the Labour Minister and Principal Secretary, Labour of TN to intervene in the issue immediately. Workers of TIDC went on a lunch boycott on 22 June in solidarity. Hyundai Motors India Employees Union released a poster in support of Pricol workers’ struggle.

Arunkumar, ex-MLA of the DMK, and Eswaran of Kongu Munnetra Kazhagam met the workers and expressed their solidarity. Kongu Munnetra Kazhagam also took up a demonstration in support of the fasting workers.

When the struggle of the workers is gathering support from various quarters irrespective of political affiliation, the management has buried its head deep in the sand and is trying to woo the workers with payment of arrears on the one hand and on the other is threatening the workers with action against them on various previous charges. But the workers are steadfast in their struggle.

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