Tamil Nadu is a leading industrial state in the country, hosting many international companies. But in these industries, a common cause for dispute between the workers and the management is the wage revision pact.
Wage revision pacts have to be made every three years between the trade unions and the industries. But the management of the industries often bypasses the trade union, delays the settlements, and sometimes provides a pittance of a wage rise. Moreover, they allegedly threaten the workers with transfers and job losses if they protest for fair wage hikes.
While the trade unions demand the labour laws to be followed, the management finds loopholes to bypass them. On the other hand, the labour department seems to be little involved until pushed by the workers to take a stand.
NewsClick approached those in charge of the management of the following companies where the wage revision struggles are still underway but received no response from them.
Oragadam, the biggest automobile hub in South Asia, is located in the suburbs of Chennai. The management of Sanmina, the American global electronics manufacturer in the Oragadam industrial belt, refuses to give the trade union its due recognition. Nitayanand from the Left Trade Union Center said, “Since the plant shifted from MEPZ special economic zone in 2007, the management has not incorporated the trade union in the wage revision process.”
On September 6, about 150 Sanmina workers occupied the factory, demanding that the upcoming wage revision be discussed with the union before implementation. But, the demand was allegedly brushed under the carpet by the management.
The union alleged that the management was using the “carrot and stick” method to prevent the workers from organising themselves, while the union asked for legalities to be followed.
The workers held a protest outside the District Collector’s office on September 26, urging the government’s intervention. “If there is no positive progress, we plan to go on strike from October 6,” said Nityanand.
Employees of the automotive component production plant Pricol Limited in Coimbatore undertook a struggle for a timely wage revision in 2018. Following that, most of about 500 workers who participated in the 100-day strike were transferred to various states across the country.
Claiming that the transfers were purely vindictive acts of the administration, Covai District Pricol Employees Association moved the court. Trade union leader Jayaprakash Narayanan said, “While the court case was underway, the labour department ordered the management to withhold the transfer orders, but the management viciously bypassed the government order.”
Pricol workers demanding withdrawal of transfer orders. Image courtesy: Jayaprakash Narayanan
On August 26 this year, the court passed its judgement observing that the transfers were an act of ‘victimisation of workers’. However, the management is yet to take action on the matter.
Narayanan said, “The management is giving silly reasons not to withdraw the transfer orders; it is saying that it has still not received a copy of the judgement when we have received it.” On September 13, Pricol workers held an agitation outside the Coimbatore district Collector office, demanding the State intervenes immediately.
Speaking at the protest, Manikandan, district leader of the Communist Party of India, said, “If the State does not intervene and resolve the problem, we will have to be to bring our families to the streets and hold protests, we have no other option.”
PPG ASIAN PAINTS
Seven permanent employees, including the United labour Federation trade union secretary, were terminated from PPG Asian Paints plant in Sriperumbudur in early September 2021. ULF claims that the workers were illegally terminated with false charges framed against them, and this was allegedly done ahead of the upcoming wage revision talks scheduled in three months.
Following the terminations and demanding their revocation, PPG Asian Paints workers went on a strike on September 8. The protesting workers demanded the administration to hold talks with the seven terminated workers and reinstate their jobs.
PPG Asian Paints workers opposing the terminations. Image courtesy: Nityanand
The Indian multinational company produces colour coating dye for automobile parts for big carmakers such as Ford, Tata, Hyunday, Kia, and Mahindra.
After a prolonged 18 month struggle period, the wage revision talks in the German carmaker BMW’s plant in Mahindra World City came to an end last week. Several protest demonstrations, memorandum submissions and talks held by the BMW Staff and Employees Union led to a successful settlement.
Successful wage revision pact in BMW plant. Image courtesy: Kannan Soundararajan
The union, affiliated to the Centre of Indian Trade Union (CITU), brought in a direct Rs 23,000 hike in wages for the April 2020 to March 2023 period, besides other benefits.
CITU leader Kannan Soundarajan said, “The BMW union outrightly protested the management’s standpoint of no wage raise during the COVID-19 pandemic period. We even ensured benefits in the form of 10 grams of gold as premium, and Ayudha Pooja gift of Rs 10,000 in 2020, Rs 12,000 in 2021 and Rs 13,000 in 2022.”
He added, “Importantly, in the pandemic period, the union ensured three days leave in case a blood relative passes away.”
VALEO, APOLLO TYRES, CAPARO
Similar to the BMW workers, employees of the French Valeo Lighting System industry ensured a successful wage hike of average Rs. 13,400, additional leave and accident insurance of Rs 10 lakh.
Wage revision settlement in Valeo Lighting. Image courtesy: CITU, Tamil Nadu
CITU leader Muthukrishnan said, “Initially, the management refused to accept our demands. Only after eight months, many protests and 21 rounds of talks was this possible”.
In the Apollo Tyres industry in Oragadam, a wage hike of Rs 18,000 was ensured last week by the CITU union. Muthukrishnan said, “This was the biggest wage hike, and it was possible only because the union is strong in the company.”
Wage revision settlement in Caparo. Image courtesy: CITU, Tamil Nadu
The automotive manufacturer Caparo in Sriperumbudur has accepted a wage hike of Rs 12,500 per month, and Rs 4,500 and above as Ayudha Pooja bonus for the next three years. The wage pact due for January 2020 was finalised only in September 2021, accumulating arrears of 20 months. The workers affiliated with the CITU held a five-day strike in May 2021, opposing the delay.