THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Over 1,500 labourers of English Indian Clays Limited (EICL) at Kochuveli were left in the lurch on Monday after the company pasted a closure notice in front of its units in the morning without any prior notification. The company stated in the notice that the factory units at Kochuveli and Thonnakkal have been closed owing to the unavailability of raw material, clay, due to the prohibition on mining in the district.
The sudden closure notice came as a shock to all employees. Moreover, the employees were supposed to receive the bonus on Tuesday and they would not get any benefits due to the closure. A joint trade union committee, comprising CITU, INTUC and BMS, decided to begin a protest against the move by the management. Of the 1,500 employees, 600 are permanent staff who have more than 30 years of experience.
The 60-year-old company has been facing a closure threat due to legal and environmental issues. Above all, the shortage of clay due to prohibition on mining also led to the closure. The High Court prohibited the mining of clay at Veyiloor near Thonnakkal last year. However, the state government arranged alternative places to mine. But it was again stopped due to the protests from local residents.
The company had closed the units temporarily for a month earlier. But later, the management had to restart its functioning following the intervention of the state government and protest from the employees.
According to D Ratnakumaran, a CITU trade union member and labourer, the management had cheated all employees by closing down the company without notice. “The management took this step to evade the distribution of bonus. This is a complete betrayal. Though the management had taken similar steps earlier, they rescinded the decision due to our efforts. The company should be reopened soon. Else, we will stage strong protests,” he said.
Early TU agitation
Earlier, the trade unions had staged several protests demanding revision of pay. The employees said they were receiving the pay scale fixed in 2012. “The management is trying to fool us. The higher officials are getting good pay and promotions. But we have been at the receiving end for the past several years,” said S R Baiju, a BMS leader.
Meanwhile, B Sunil, general manager of EICL, told TNIE that the company was not getting enough raw material. However, he also said it is not a permanent closure and it will be restarted once it could get the raw material. “The lack of mining and huge shortage of clay stopped the revenue sources of EICL. It also increased the operational cost. The company is not in a position to operate and hence we announced the closure. It will be reopened once we start getting clay,” he said.