In protest against ‘growing contracterisation and non-settlement of bilateral agreements’, employees of Voltas India, a Tata company, sat on a day-long dharna at Jantar Mantar here on Saturday.

“We have submitted a memorandum to the Labour Minister and are likely to get an appointment next week,’ said Ravi Nambiar, General-Secretary of the All-India Voltas Employees Federation. The workers have been on relay hunger strike for over a year.

Nambiar said trade union leaders from CITU, AITUC, NTUI and HMS visited the workers and offered their solidarity. He said the Mumbai-based Voltas Ltd had 8,000 contract workers, 3,000 management staff and only 600 permanent general staff.

The management, however, said in a statement that the company had over 9,700 employees, of whom over 3,000 worked in India and over 6,500 in overseas operations. “The 3000-plus in India include about 600 general staff/workmen, of whom the Voltas Employees Union represents roughly about 530. The workmen draw an average of Rs 4 lakh per annum, a Voltas statement said.

Nambiar said the management staff was doing the work of general staff and drawing three times higher salary than the general staff. A large number of contract workers were being paid a paltry sum and made to do production work in gross violation of the Contract Labour Guidelines, he alleged.

The union alleged that no bonus or ex gratia had been paid to them the past three years. This was even as the management staff was getting a pay hike every year, they said.

However, the management said that “it recently revised its offer on monthly increase applicable to general staff to Rs 3,350 per month and also agreed to an amount of ex gratia of Rs 52,000 per person for the two years (which will also entail an approximate amount of Rs 1,50,000 on account of arrears to every individual). However, the Union is not willing to budge from its stand.”

The Tata company, with an annual turnover of $1 billion, offers engineering solutions and manufactures air-conditioners and refrigerators.

(This article was published on September 30, 2012)
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