Over 1,000 workers laid off at Kerala govt textile mills, financial crunch tightens grip
All the five mills are under the Industries department held by the CPM which had spearheaded many an agitation against lay-offs across the state.
THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: In a major embarrassment for the ruling CPM, over 1,000 workers of five state-run textile mills were laid off, most of them over the past four months, and paid neither the pending salary nor lay-off wages. Observers attribute the development to the severe financial crunch the state is experiencing.
All five mills are under the Industries department held by the CPM which had spearheaded many an agitation against lay-offs across the state. The trade unions in the mills affiliated with the CITU have openly come out against the department’s lackadaisical approach to the issue.
Chengannur Prabhuram Mills, Malappuram Edarikkodu Textiles and Thrissur Cooperative Mills are remaining closed for the past four months, while Kottayam Textiles and Seetharam Textiles have downed shutters for the past three weeks.
The mills used to buy cotton from private agencies in Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and Maharashtra. This year the Industries department has not provided enough funds to them to procure cotton. Kottayam Textiles has around 300 permanent workers. Seetharam has 200, Edarikkad 250, Prabhuram 200 and Thrissur Cooperative Mills 225.
“The department has to pay Rs 1.15 crore per month as lay-off wage to the workers. However, it has not been paid so far,” Textile Federation general secretary M R Rajan told TNIE.
“If the wages are to be calculated it would be more than `3 crore. The mills have not given gratuity to the workers who had retired. This is an unprecedented situation. According to the Factory Rules if a company went to lay off the permanent worker is eligible for lay-off wage which is half of the salary,” Rajan said.
‘Industries dept should make way to open mills’
Soon after assuming office, the second Pinarayi government constituted a board to facilitate the purchase of cotton from the open market. The plan was that the Industries department will allocate money to the board to buy cotton which will be distributed to the mills. However, no allocation has been made to the cotton board so far, sources said.
To make matters worse, the Industries department also pushed to implement the ‘Job Guarantee Scheme’ in the mills. According to the scheme, the mill’s day-to-day work will be handed over to private parties who would buy cotton, make the products and pay the wages to the workers. The ownership of the mills would remain with the government. However, strict protests from the CITU compelled the department to retreat.
Although the Textile Federation leaders met Industries Minister P Rajeeve twice and submitted a memorandum, the department is yet to convene a meeting to discuss the issue. “We know the government has financial constraints. However, the department should make way to open the mills,” said Rajan.
“The problem in these mills is part of a bigger problem the state PSUs are going through,” noted economist Dr K P Kannan told TNIE. “In general, 80-90 PSUs in the state are running at a loss. Only 35 PSUs are making a profit. Each year, PSUs are making an accumulated loss of Rs 2,000-5,000 crore,” he said.