People's Democracy(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)
May 06, 2007
Successful End To CITU Leaderís Hunger Strike In Nasik
P R Krishnan
AN indefinite hunger strike launched by the Maharashtra state CITU general secretary Dr D L Karad in support of the demands of workmen of ACE Glass Containers Ltd came to a successful end in Malegaon on April 19.
Larsen & Toubro, one of the top companies in the private sector, opened a new subsidiary in the Malegaon MIDC of Nashik district of Maharashtra in the year 1996. The name of this unit is Nasik Glass Works. It manufactures different types of glass wares and is one of the top-most glass manufacturers in the western parts of India. It employs about 750 workers. But out of this workforce, only 350 are treated as regular employees and the rest are all contract labourers. As the company is a part of the famous Larsen & Toubro Ltd., a large number of youngsters from the surrounding localities were attracted to its service. They were contented to get the jobs, even if they were of temporary, casual nature or even if they happened to be on contract basis.
The workers of this factory are members of the CITU-affiliated Nasik Workers Union. During last 10 years the union has had 3 settlements with the management, each time gaining good wage rise. The contract workers are also the members of this union and they also had the benefit of wage rise twice in the past, as a result of negotiated settlements. The workers have contributed to 90 per cent productivity and the company has been running smoothly and profitably. The last settlement regarding service conditions expired in October 2004. The union therefore had served a fresh charter of demands for consideration of the management.
However, when negotiations for a fresh settlement were in progress, the company i.e. Larsen & Toubro suddenly and without any prior information to the union or the workers, came out with a story of having sold the Nasik Glass Works to a new management, and the company was rechristened as ACE Glass Containers Ltd.
After prolonged struggle against these sinister dealings, the management of the new company signed an agreement with the, union before the Deputy Labour Commissioner. It was therein agreed that (1) the new management shall not resort to reduction in the labour strength, (2), all the contract labourers will be given jobs and (3) the management shall initiate steps to reach an agreement regarding wage revision and amelioration of other service conditions of the workmen. The union and the workmen gave full co-operation to the new management in raising production and maintaining industrial peace. But despite six months, no wage-revision came. Not only that, the management began to take provocative steps against the workers. In addition, the management also resorted to disciplinary actions against workmen including dismissals from service of union activists. Alongside, the new management also embarked upon abrupt termination of nearly 400 contract workers. Not satisfied with this, the new management also declared a lock out from May 31, 2006 leveling unfounded allegations against the union and the workmen.
The union made all efforts to get the lockout lifted. It took initiative in getting a number of meetings held in the office of the Labour Commissioner and District Collector. But the management would not relent. The president of Nasik Workers Union Dr D L Karad, who is also the general secretary of Maharashtra state committee of CITU, was therefore compelled to start an indefinite hunger strike. This hunger strike began on April 15. The increasing response to this action of the CITU leader and the interventions of the CITU all India president M K Pandhe made the management to agree to hold negotiations with the union on all pending issues. It appealed to Dr Karad to withdraw the hunger strike. Accordingly a delegation of workers under the leadership of Maharastra state CITU president K L Bajaj met the management. The delegation included Kumar Siralkar, president of Maharashtra State Agricultural Workers Union, Kisan Gujar, secretary of Nasik District Kisan Sabha, Sitaram Thombre and R S Pande, office bearers of Nasik Workers Union and CITU state secretary P R Krishnan. Before meeting the management, the leaders addressed a largely-attended meeting in the Satyagriha Pandol greeting Dr Karad and the workers of the factory for waging this struggle.
As a result of the talks held by the delegation in this meeting and as a result of the intervention of CITU president M K Pandhe, the management relented. In a letter addressed to Pandhe, it assured discussions on all pending issues with the union and requested Dr Karad to withdraw the hunger strike. Consequently and in the midst of a largely attended meeting held at the Satyagraha Pandol, the CITU leader Bajaj offered orange juice to Dr Karad and the 5-day long hunger strike came to an end. The Deputy Collector of Naslk district, the Superintendent of Police, the Deputy Labour Commissioner and some of the top management officials were also present on the occasion of withdrawal of the hunger strike.