After six months of peace, the ghost of industrial unrest returned to haunt the industrial belt of Gurgaon-Manesar.
Work at one of the four plants of garment exporter Orient Craft remained shut for the third day today. On Monday, violence broke out over dispute on pay and leave.
The present labour dispute was, however, triggered by an unusual suspect — Sunday’s India-Pakistan match. Workers at the factory said, on Sunday, as India played Pakistan, a few workers skipped work to watch it. The contractor, who had warned workers against going on leave, assaulted one of them after he justified his absence from work. The workers retaliated and burnt private vehicles and police cars.
On Wednesday, a local court sent nine workers to judicial custody and gave bail to the contractor, identified as one Lovely.
Workers at the factory, however, denied the present reaction was a knee-jerk one. They said the unrest was building over a period of time and Monday’s incident proved the tipping point.
They complained of long working hours, lack of parity between contract and regular workers, and inadequate pay, as reasons for the unrest. And, held the contractor responsible for the situation.
Though the company, which supplies garments to brands such as Tommy Hilfiger, DKNY and GAP, remained unavailable for comment, workers said the company employs 4,000 workers, of which 2,500 are on contract.
“I have worked in this company for six years and this is the way the company has rewarded my hard work,” said 24-year-old Mohammad Nassem, showing his thickly-bandaged left arm. He was injured on Monday. “I am not paid a full salary. I am paid 50-55 paisa for every cloth I stitch, whereas I should be getting 55-60 paisa.”
On an average, workers said, each of them stitch 400-500 pieces of clothes. They alleged they were being paid less than their counterparts in the other plants of the company. “Usually, we work from 9:30 am to 8:30 pm. Some days, we even work till 1 am. But we are not paid Rs 20 as night charges. The contractor takes that money,” said Abhishek, 22, who works as a tailor in the factory.
Central trade union leaders on Wednesday met the workers; the factory doesn’t have any workers’ union.
All major central trade unions have also called a meeting tomorrow to decide on the course of action, said D L Sachdeva of the All India Trade Union Congress.
The workers, however, said the factory would remain shut until the company discontinued with the present contractor and ensured the nine workers were released from jail.