Employees of Eurolife Healthcare Pvt. Ltd., a pharmaceutical company at Alathur Industrial Park in Tamil Nadu's Chengalpattu district, have been left distraught due to month-long delays in salaries. The employees have still not received wages due for April and the Centre of Indian Trade Unions has called for a protest against the delay on June 17.
The union has been waging struggles for over a year against extreme delays in salary, besides other issues. Apparently, only after protests, strikes and government interventions do the workers receive their wages each time.
The company, formerly known as Boxter India, was bought by Eurolife Healthcare four years ago. Since the change in ownership, employees say that they have been overworked and find themselves under a lot of stress.
Meanwhile, Eurolife Healthcare, a leading player in the production and distribution of intravenous infusions and other pharmaceutical products, has been expanding its production capacity and building a pan-Indian business.
The Chengalpattu plant has about 80 employees. Around 25 of them work in the management sector, 40 are employed at the warehouse-level while 15 are on contract basis.
SEVERAL MONTHS’ DELAY IN SALARY
When CITU inquired about salaries for April and May, the company's management said that their salary will be credited into their accounts by June 10. However, with that failing, the workers were protesting four days later.
Protest outside Thiruporur bus depot
CITU district secretary K.Seshadri said that whenever they "approach the Directorate of Industrial Safety and Health with our demands, they merely call the management. Every time the management promises to deposit salaries within two days and the government sends us away with that assurance. But no permanent solution is sought out”.
“We received our salary for March as early as April only because we intercepted lorries exiting the factory and created a lot of trouble. We have to do something on these lines every time to receive our salary. It is not fair,” said a Eurolife worker.
When asked how the management responded to strikes, Seshadri said “they do not care if work is halted even for a bit. Eurolife has units across the country, that hardly affects them; work gets done anyway.”
In addition to the delay in wages, the management withheld around 30% of salaries in the months of April, May and June last year. Workers have approached the court against the move with the case still pending due to the COVID-19 lockdown.
RELUCTANCE WITH PENSION, PF, ESI, BONUS, PAY RISE
Many of the Eurolife employees have been working in the same company for more than 25 years now. One of the retirees was not given his settlement amount and another was only given his gratuity fund. They have not been getting their monthly pensions either.
Another employee is said to retire next month, the Union is doubtful whether the management will rightfully provide him with his monthly pension.
Employees complain that the company has deducted money towards the workers' provident fund for the last 14 months, but the PF amount has not been paid to the government.
Similarly, funds towards the Employees State Insurance (ESI) are regularly deducted from the workers’ salaries, but not paid to the state. The management has not paid the ESI amount for three years and the stipulated time period has lapsed as a result.
This is crucial because the government recently announced that if a family loses an earning member to COVID-19, the kin would receive pension under the ESI. Eurolife workers fear their families may not get this amount in the case of a tragedy.
Union poster with all the demands
Eurolife CITU union secretary V. Sesadri grudgingly said that “even PF, ESI and other issues can be fought for in due course of time, but they should at least provide our monthly pay regularly. How can we survive without our salary? That is why we called for a protest with the single demand of immediate payment of pending salaries”.
There has been no wage hike in the company for the past four year. Its management has apparently been saying that there is no need for a hike and salaries were already high. Some of the permanent employees who have been working at the company for over seven years only receive Rs 17,000 as monthly wages. Eurolife has neither paid a bonus to its workers for three years.
“We came to work throughout the pandemic period while suffering police harassment and this is the treatment we get from the government,” said Sesadri.
Workers alleged that basic COVID protocols have not been followed by the company, whether providing face masks, checking the temperature or ensuring hand washing facilities.
Newsclick tried to get in touch with Eurolife's unit manager and the supply chain head for a comment. The story will be updated with the same when the company responds.