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Saturday, Mar 02, 2002

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Tribunal puts its seal on textile industry wage settlements

G. Gurumurthy


EVEN as a legal wrangle over adjudicating textile mill workers' wages is pending before the Madras High Court, the Industrial Tribunal in Chennai - to which the wage disputes had been referred - has passed as its award some bilateral wage settlements reached outside the Tribunal.

Presided over by Mr S.R. Singaravelu, the Industrial Tribunal - which had recorded these individual wages settlements as `post-reference settlements' during its last hearing on February 22 - has passed its `interim' awards accepting these settlements, thereby giving official sanctity to the settlements of wage disputes, according to industry sources.

They said that seven or eight textile mill managements have entered into bilateral wage settlements during the `post-referral' period passed as the Tribunal's award.

Though the number of settlements accepted by the Tribunal in its February 22 sitting are said to be few compared to the huge list of 1,600-odd textile mills referred by the State Government last September, their acceptance is considered significant by the textile industry circle as these comprise the first batch of individual settlements passed by the Tribunal as its awards.

The sources said that this might trigger more such settlements by the workmen's unions and individual mill managements outside the framework of the Tribunal and have them passed as the Tribunal's awards.

The State Government, while referring the issue, had also ordered for payment of interim relief and lumpsum amount to the workers.

As per the Government order issued under Sec. 10(b) of the ID Act, workers in units with spindle capacity of 2,200 and less should be paid a monthly interim relief of Rs 150 and a lumpsum amount of Rs 900.

Those in mills with spindle capacity of 2,200 and above should be paid a relief of Rs 225 per month and a lumpsum amount of Rs 1,300.

For employees other than these and permanent workers, the relief payable would be Rs 150 per month and Rs 900 would be the lumpsum amount.

The Government had cited 1,692 textile units in the State cutting across spindle capacity as parties to the wage disputes.

These units were served individual summons to appear before the Tribunal for adjudication.

However, the textile mill managements, which opposed the State Government order on payment of interim relief and reference of the dispute, challenged the Government action by initiating legal proceedings in the Chennai High Court.

Over 500 textile units opposed to the Government invoking the Sec. 10(b) proceedings moved the High Court and obtained stay against payment of relief and lumpsum amount to the workers.

The managements' primary objection to the reference was that the Government had not called them for conciliation, nor had it bothered to know whether the mills had subsisting wage settlements with the workmen's unions.

The workmen's unions are also making a counter-move to vacate the stay.

The Government's order on payment of relief will be valid only till end-February, by which the wages dispute has to be settled. In other words, payment will cease to operate in a few days.

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