Mill workers take protest to labour commissioner’s office

Threaten to close down textile mills in city if their demands are not met

Hundreds of workers protested outside the Labour Commissioner’s office on Monday, threatening to close down all textile mills in the city.

Lakhwinder Singh, head of the Karkhana Mazdoor Union, said, “We have been sitting outside the labour commissioner’s office for the entire day now. The owners of mills have told us that they are ready to increase our wages but will not give anything in writing as demanded by us. If the owners do not agree, we will force the closure of textile mills in Shakti Nagar area on Tuesday. We will not take withdraw out agitation till our demands are met.”

Workers of about three dozen powerloom factories in Ludhiana’s Gaushala, Kashmir Nagar, Madhopuri areas have been on strike sicne September 16 under the leadership of the Karkhana Mazdoor Union (KMU). The workers have revolted against their “pathetic living conditions”, “absence of labour laws”, “callous attitude” of factory owners and the administration and the “opportunistic behaviour of established trade unions affiliated to Left parties”.

They are energised by the recent successful strikes in 42 powerloom factories in Shakti Nagar area and the Jindal Textiles factory. Singh said, “The working conditions of the powerloom workers of Ludhiana is so difficult and so dangerous that it can at best be called inhumane. Serious injuries and deaths at workplace are quite common in industrial areas. Even basic safety measures and regulations are not implemented by the factory owners. On the contrary in most of the cases, the administration is found connived with the factory owners to serve their interests. No labour law is implemented in these factories. Provident Fund, employees state insurance, job card, attendance register have no existence here.”

Singh added that, “The regional labour department is fully hand in glove with the errant factory owners and is suitably compensated for its services. Not only the factory owners have bought up the officials and police, they do not even hesitate to use the services of goons to intimidate workers if they raise their voice. In the Dhandari episode in December 2010, they had unabashedly used local goons ‘Bikers’ Gang’ to attack agitating workers. Even the police favoured the factory owners and held the workers responsible for violence.”

The recent surge of militant agitation among the powerloom workers of Ludhiana began with the strike of the 42 powerloom factories of Shakti Nagar and Tibba Road areas. The protesting workers allege that it was the apathetic attitude of the powerloom factory owners which was mainly responsible for the inhumane conditions of living which forced the workers to halt the work and choose the path of strike. The main demands of the workers include hike in the piece rates/wages, necessary provisions for the safety of the workers and implementing all the labour laws including identity cards, PF, ESI etc. Hundreds of the powerloom workers of about three dozen factories of Ludhiana ‘s Gaushala, Kashmir Nagar, Madhopuri etc also decided to join the strike.

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