Even as the future of the state- owned Anglo-French Textile mills, Swadeshee and Bharathee mills remain uncertain, the government has frozen increase in industrial dearness allowance for the employees of the mills for two years, taking into account the precarious financial condition of the textile mills.
According to orders issued by the Department of Industries and Commerce, this decision was taken at a high level review meeting chaired by Chief Minister N Rangasamy on August 13, 2012, and successive meetings on Dec 28 and 31, 2012.
The estimated loss of AFT mills stands at `480.04 crore, from 1993-94 till March 31 2012, while the operation loss for Swadeshee and Bharathee mills stands at `61.03 crore as on 31 December 2012. Moreover, the net worth of AFT mills is minus `101.37 crore.
Fearing that the continuous loss may endanger the continued existence of the mill, which may ultimately result in large scale unemployment of workers, the Lieutenant governor has issued orders for freezing the DA on April 9.
Industrial DA was introduced in AFT, despite the mill suffering continuous loss, in lieu of Central dearness allowance for staff, supervisors and officers and in lieu of variable dearness allowance for workers with effect from September 1, 2009 and in October 2010 for the employees of Swadeshee and Bharathee textile mills.
This decision of the government has met with firm opposition from the trade unions who are urging the government to withdraw its orders of stalling the enhancement of dearness allowance to textile mill employees till December 31, 2014.
The AFT mill workers, who have been given leave (with salary) by the management till April 20, have protested the decision and staged a dharna in front of the mill. “So far we have given six months salary as share capital for running the mill, but after trial run conducted by the mill for two months, beginning from November, the production has been stopped. Though there was a profit of `1.18 crore in manufacturing `8 crore-worth materials during this period, we have not been explained the reason for the curb in production in the mill.
“Besides, our salary is outstanding for 11 months, including the six months salary which was give as advance towards the share capital of the firm,” said Muthamizhan, general secretary of Joint action committee, Trade Unions of AFT Mills.
Meanwhile, the plan of the AFT mill management to get a loan of `15 crore from UCO Bank has also hit rough weather, according to a notice issued by the mill management. The mill had plans to use the loan amount thus obtained to pay wages to workers, who have gone unpaid and settle the retirement benefits for workers.
“The government should discuss with us all the issues threadbare and then come to a decision, but so far we have been kept in the dark. If the government cannot run the mill, then they should come up with a settlement plan after holding discussions with workers,” he said.
The Puducherry All Textile Trade Unions in a letter to Chief Minister N Rangasamy, copy of which was made available to media, termed this as ‘unfortunate’.
V S Abishegam, secretary, AITUC, and president of the All Textile Trade Unions, said the cost of living in Puducherry was very high compared to the adjoining states and a worker here needs a minimum salary of `18,000/month to survive. A worker of AFT, Swadeshee and Bharathee Mills gets a maximum salary of `16,000 and the curb on the enhancement of DA would further affect them. Pointing out that it was possible to make the mills run profitably, Abishegam urged Rangasamy to take steps to obtain a financial assistance of `500 crore from the Centre to upgrade the mill.