Madhav Jevughale is now 59 years old and has been working with the Greaves Cotton company’s Chikhalthana unit of Aurangabad for the past 40 years. He has just a year before his retirement. But he is worried about the overall situation of the company as well as the next generation of workers.
“The concept of industrial worker is being killed systematically. There are two factors behind it. One is current nature of the economy and the other is the owners. Neglecting our real issues, they are trying to reduce the work and then the workforce. Through this, they are trying to finish the permanent worker,” said Jevughale.
Madhav has been associated with the All India Trade Union Congress (AITUC). He feels that the work is decreasing day by day in the entire industrial zone of Marathwada. This is, according to him, due to automation and it is killing the strength of the workers—presently as well as in terms of the opportunities in future.
“We are now 78 permanent workers in our company. In 1980, the number was 1,000. Companies are finding alternatives to recruitment—like contractual labour. This ultimately reduces the strength of the permanent workers,” he said.
Another important challenge before the industrial workers is that the companies set up multiple plants and reduce the capacity everywhere. Greaves Cotton, for example, has three units in Maharashtra. It manufactures diesel engines. The company needs 30,000 engines per month and its Chikhalthana plant has the capacity to produce this number. However, only 5,000 engines are manufactured at this plant.
“What does this mean? It is an indication by the company, which is saying that they have alternatives to produce the product. This ultimately affects workers’ various demands including increment. If we decide to go on strike, company adjusts the production through other plants. Ultimately, we remain choiceless and have to accept what the company says,” explained Jevughale.
Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government had come up with the National Employability Enhancement Mission (NEEM) scheme to help young students experience actual work in a company. However, companies hire these students with a very low salary—about 30% of that of the permanent employees—and let them work. “This is misuse in a way. Because companies are giving less remuneration and are getting more work done. Also, this curbs their need to make employees permanent. No gratuity, no bonus. Nothing,” said Ashok Gavali, a worker from a morganite company based out of Aurangabad.
The ongoing economic slowdown has become another source of stress for the industrial workers. The production has reduced everywhere. 'Block Closure' (notice by company reducing the working hours or days) has become a norm in the industrial zones. Many companies are asking their workers to work on only four days of week. The number of non-working days in a month has reached 12 in some of the industrial areas of Nasik and Pune. The layoffs, so far, have affected the contractual labourers, but the permanent workers fear a similar fate if the situation is not improved.
“No company can run their units with reduced capacity. But dip in the demand has affected the workers severely,” said Gavali.
Sandeep Patil from Aurangabad, who is a small-time builder, has been constructing building mainly around the industrial area. His customers are from salaried class of industrial zone in the city. “Nowadays, everyone who comes for booking a house, asks for concessions in the EMI payment, etc. But that is not my job. This needs to be done by the banks. But it shows fear in the minds of the salaried class who are apprehensive of layoffs,” said Patil while speaking to NewsClick.
A local vernacular daily had recently reported that there have been 50,000 job cuts in and around the Aurangabad industrial area—mainly affecting the contractual labourers. This indicates the gravity of the situation in the state.
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