Following continuous protests for over two months and the subsequent intervention of the Kerala High Court, the protests by the workers of financial lending giant Muthoot group have yielded results. The Kerala High Court on Thursday, October 10, took cognisance of the ineffectiveness of the conciliation meetings between the Muthoot Finance management and the Centre of India Trade Unions (CITU)-backed employees’ union, Non-Banking and Private Finance Employees Association (NBPFEA).
The management of the firm has agreed to the demands of a hike in salary of the workers and has also recognised the formulation of the union.
State Labour department said the management has accepted in-principle the demand by the employees for a hike in their salary and other benefits. The management has also assured that no disciplinary action would be initiated against those who participated in the strike, the Labour department said.
Also read: Victimisation, Media Trial and Struggle of Muthoot Finance Employees
Kerala-based Muthoot Finance Company had been facing protests by a section of employees supported by CITU demanding revised salary structure and other benefits. Speaking to NewsClick, Thomas K J, State Vice President of Muthoot Finance Employees’ Union (MFEU), said, “There was a conciliation talk through the intervention of the Kerala High Court. The management had to bow down to the union and a bilateral agreement has been achieved by the management and the union. Our trade union has been recognised. Earlier, the management was not tolerating the existence of the trade union at any cost. The mounting pressure and consistent protests, as well as the intervention of the Kerala High Court has helped us a lot.”
He added, “Labour exploitation was persistent and now with our movement, this has been recognised. This is a big achievement for us. Another achievement is the establishment of the standing order which did not exist earlier. Once the order is implemented, it would mean the recognition of the union which is remarkable. The management has also agreed to pay the minimum wage of Rs. 18,000.”
“More than 2,000 employees out of the total workforce of 3,000 have been striking against the Muthoot Finance’s management, demanding formulation of a salary structure,” Thomas told NewsClick.
Also read: This Is A Fight for Our Labour Rights, Say Striking Employees of Muthoot Finance
“Not to mention that it is recurring victimisation of the union members and dishonouring of the commitments previously made by the management that has forced us to observe strike after strike,” he added.
The tussle with the management was ongoing since 2016. According to the striking employees that NewsClick spoke to, no proper salary structure is in place within the organisation. Wages are incentive-based, which often gets affected by the whims and fancies of the higher officials. The situation is similar for all the employees working in Muthoot Finance across India.
To organise the struggle of the employees in the state, the employees sought NPFEA’s affiliation and registered the union. In retaliation, the management targeted the union members by transferring them from their home branches or suspending them altogether. Interestingly, the unfair treatment began even before the newly-formed MFEU had raised any demands. Previously, the High Court had noted the absence of competent representatives from the management’s end, saying that it is “making the whole conciliation proceeding a mockery”. Following this, the court had initiated another settlement process and appointed an observer who will also act as a mediator.
Also read: Muthoot Finance Employees Continue Their Fight
The protest of the workers was marked with victimisation against the union members and a media trial of the struggle of the Muthoot Finance employees. On September 9, the gold financing giant threatened to wind up 300 of its Kerala branches in response to the strike. The Outlook had reported that the Muthoot Group had little incentive to budge as Kerala only accounts for less than 5% of its business growth.