The struggles of the Muthoot Finanace Employees Union (MFEU) continue even during the COVID-19 pandemic. The employees have now given the call for a strike between November 23 and 25, against the illegal termination of 164 employees, including union leaders.
On December 7, 2019, the Muthoot management terminated as many as 164 employees – without notice – and had declared that 43 branches across Kerala would be shutting down. Following this, on January 2, 2020, employees from 568 branches, including the head office in Kochi, began an indefinite strike organised under the banner of the Non-Banking and Private Finance Association (NBPFA), of which MFEU is a part. NBPFA and MFEU are associated with the Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU).
In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, however, the MFEU called off the strike on March 26, 2020, following an order by the state’s labour department. Now, 11 months after the termination of the employees, the union and employees are forced to resort another protest against the anti-worker policies of the management.
“The 84-day-long strike, which had begun on January 2 this year, had been called off due to the pandemic. We are again forced to strike now and the three day strike will be an indication of things to come,” said C.C. Ratheesh, secretary of the Non-Banking and Private Finance Association.
Read more: Muthoot Finance: Employees Go on Indefinite Strike over Illegal Termination
A number of meetings and negotiations have been conducted to resolve issues, but the management is adamant, say employees. About 18 such meetings were held as per the directions of the labour department. The Kerala High Court had also directed the management to settle the issues of employees. The management, however, was not keen, said K.J. Thomas of MFEU had told NewsClick earlier.
In one of these meetings, the management stated they were ready to provide compensation to the employees instead of reinstating them. However, the employees and the union had already denied the compensation offered; they have been demanding that Muthoot reinstates the 164 employees who had been terminated illegally.
The union also pointed out that the management had not sent anyone with any decision-making power during the meetings initiated by the Labour Department and the High Court. As employees are not in a position to stage mass protests due to Covid protocols, the management made use of the ploy. The union and its employees have again been forced to resume their struggle.
Read more: Six Months after Termination, Muthoot Finance Employees Continue their Struggle
The management has been claiming that the Kerala chapter of the company was running at a loss, which was said to be reason behind the closure of the branches. The unions point out that the illegal termination was a retaliatory move by the management in response to the employees staging a 52-day strike which began on August 20, 2019.
At one point, the management even declared that they did not want to engage with the NBPFA and CITU. Of the terminated employees, four are the office bearers of the union. Another 30 employees are working committee members of the union and rest are active members of the union.