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Century Mills set to down shutters in Mumbai

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Cites high cost of operations; 95 pc of workers accepted VRS offer

CENTURY MILLS workers who have not accepted the VRS scheme protesting outside the mill on Wednesday . Shashi Ashiwal
CENTURY MILLS workers who have not accepted the VRS scheme protesting outside the mill on Wednesday . Shashi Ashiwal

Arushi Sen

Mumbai, Dec.13

After more than a century of existence, work at Birla-owned Century Textiles and Industries Ltd in Mumbai has "become almost stagnant." It has notified the BSE of its intent to wind down operations in Mumbai.

About 6,300 of the 6,700 workers have opted for the Voluntary Retirement Scheme offered by the company management.

"Ninety-five per cent of the workforce has accepted the offer, which amounts to about Rs 9-10 lakh per person. The rest are still employed at the mill but very few machines are functioning," said Mr R.K. Dalmiya, President, Century Textiles and Industries Ltd.

The company had earlier said that running a mill was unviable in Mumbai because of high labour costs, taxes and water charges.

The Century mill area houses a workers' colony and those living there have not been asked to leave.

"We have not taken a decision on what to do with the land yet," said Mr Dalmiya. He added that the workers would remain at the mill until the company can think of fresh options to keep them on the rolls.

According to Mr Udyog Bhat, leader of the Sarva Shramik Sanghatana, 700-800 workers have rejected the VRS offer of Rs 3-5 lakh per employee. "Our demand is for a compensation equal to what the workers could have possibly earned if they had worked till 60," said Mr Bhat.

Agitated workers who have not accepted the scheme gathered outside the mill on Wednesday to protest against the VRS deal.

"It is not easy to get another job at this stage and neither is the money offered enough to survive. We will continue to work as we cannot be forced to retire," said Mr Kishore Kale, a worker who has been with Century for 28 years. Analysts feel the shutdown will have a positive effect on the company and help push up its stocks. "The company would be saving a lot in terms of labour and shifting of the manufacture to another location will increase profitability," said Ms Neha Bubna, textile analyst, UTI Securities.

Related Stories:
Confusion on eve of Century Textiles AGM

(This article was published in the Business Line print edition dated December 14, 2006)
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