Workers at ITC’s YiPPee! Factory in Malur on Indefinite Strike
New Delhi: Workers at the food division facility of the diversified conglomerate, ITC Ltd, at Karnataka’s Malur are on an indefinite strike since November 14. The nearly 130 permanent employees at the factory are demanding a new wage agreement that has been pending since February 2018.
The workers are protesting against the management for not giving them any increment in their salary for the past four years, Newsclick has learnt. Numerous talks with the ITC’s management to reach a consensus over various clauses in the new wage agreement failed, forcing the workers to take an industrial action, as per sources.
The workers also alleged that once they decided to strike work, they were threatened of cane-charging by the local police.
Meanwhile, the management has put the contractual and casual staff on the assembly line to keep the production running.
The ITC factory at Malur produces Sunfeast YiPPee! – the second-largest selling instant noodles brand in the country, with a market share of over 22%. In 2018, the brand crossed the Rs1,000 crore sales mark, making
ITC’s packaged food business the third largest in India.
The ITC facility at Malur started in 2014. After serving for a one-year probation period, the newly joined workers were made to sign a three-year wage agreement that ended in the year 2018.
In December 2017, a “brawl” between a management official and a workmen led to the formation of the union, namely, ITC Foods Employees Union, which then also submitted a charter of demands to negotiate the terms of the wage agreement with the management. According to the union, the management is not inclined to offer reasonably on the assured wage part.
They said the management was proposing a four-year package, which the union was not agreeable to, as it was looking for a three-year wage settlement. Also, the management was proposing indirect benefits rather than assured social security to the workers. In the new wage pact, the management also proposed linking bonus to productivity, which was a break from the tradition followed at the facility, the union said.
To push their demands, the workers went on a relay hunger strike in August last year which lasted for 15 days. The management responded in a punitive manner, suspending the organising secretary and the treasurer of the union.
“A worker at the Malur facility earns a meagre wage of Rs 12,000,” said Mukesh, organising secretary of the union, adding that “for the same amount of work, workers in the Pune and Haridwar facilities earn Rs 26,000 to Rs 32,000.” Mukesh is one of the union members who was suspended last year by the management for his activities. He is still under suspension.
Mukesh told Newsclick that even during the protest period then, production at the Malur facility wasn’t affected. But, when it came to the workers getting a fair wage for their labour, the management resorted to “witch-hunting” of union members.
“Even now while the permanent staff is on a strike, the concern of the management is only to keep the production moving,” he added.
The ITC management has employed well over 500 contractual and casual workers through third-party agencies who have replaced the permanent employees for the time being.
Both the police and the District Labour Commissioner have asked the workers to compromise with their demands, said the protesting workers.
“The livelihood of a labourer is of no concern to ITC,” said Mukesh.
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