More than 700 workers of Luminous Power Technologies’ Gagret unit from Una district in Himachal Pradesh, under the aegis of CITU State Committee, carried out a protest demonstration in the Labour Office in Himland, Shimla, and surrounded the labour office on Tuesday. The workers from Una have demanded that the union’s registration, which has been pending for approval in the labour office for over a year now should be done within 15 days.
Luminous Power Technologies is a ‘leading’ power and home electrical specialist in India, having a vast portfolio. The company has presence in over 36 countries, with seven manufacturing units in India, out of which five units are in Himachal, which employ nearly 4,000 workers.
Workers’ Union President from the Gagret unit, Manoj Kumar, told Newsclick that the documents for the registration of the workers’ union from this unit are pending in the Labour Department for the last one year, and that the labour department is knowingly not registering the union.
He added that during this time, some papers for the registration have disappeared from the Labour Department, which makes it clear that some officers from the Labour Department are working hand-in-glove with the company's management.
He has also accused the labour inspectors from Una of helping the company’s management in deliberately stalling the union’s registration process, thereby crushing the interests of the workers. He has demanded that the labour inspector be transferred immediately, so that the law and labour rights of the country can be protected.
Vijinder Mehra, state secretary, CITU, told Newsclick, “These workers made a union nearly one and a half years ago, and applied for the registration right away. Now according to the Trade Union’s Act, they cannot disclose the details of the workers who apply to form the union to the employer so that these workers are not sacked or harassed by the employer. But here, the officials have full knowledge of the application of registration.”
While seeking to apply for registration for union, according to the Trade Union’s Act, it is not required to inform the company that the formation of the union is under process, and to seek approval for the same is certainly not required. “What this Labour Department is doing is that they have created an additional step of seeking approval from the employer or the company. This helps the company to stall the process of formation of the union. Otherwise, registration of a union is not an elaborate process. It’s a clerical formality which gets cleared within a week,” Mehra told Newsclick.
Workers’ unions at such factories ensure that that the workers are not exploited by the employer. Denying or stalling the registration of such unions have become a common practice not only in Himachal Pradesh but across the country. In fact, one of the key demands in the charter of demands raised during the nationwide industrial strike of workers on January 8 and 9 was to put a deadline of 45 days for the process of registering unions.
Similar cases have come to light regarding Kinnaur’s district’s Hydel Project workers’ union and Sewage treatment plant workers’ union in Himachal. Registration applications of these unions are pending with the Labour Department for over three years now.
“These unions help in fighting for the rights of the workers in these industries. Rights like EPF, daily wages, medical benefits, leaves and other basic labour laws. Biggest reason why they don’t let unions get registered is because the factories like the Luminous Power Technologies have as many as seven units in the country, and they still have 500-600 contract workers in a single unit anywhere. Contract workers are employed in a temporary project, but to employ contract workers in such companies is done only to save the cost of labour since regularisation of workers would mean to employ them on a fixed salary, and to assure them of other benefits. Once such workers form unions, fighting against exploitation becomes easy, and has more legal implications. Therefore, they stall the registration process,” Mehra told Newsclick.
He further said that CITU will intensify protests against the Labour Department if they fail to meet the demands within 15 days.