Labour pains

Birla Textile Mill in Himachal Pradesh is yet to pay dues to 2,300 workers. The unit was 'shifted' from Delhi for causing pollution

Published: Sunday 28 February 1999

  Workers demonstrating in Bad the Birla Textiles Mills have not paid dues to over 2,300 workers who had gathered in Baddi, Himachal Pradesh, alleges P K Sahi of the All India Federation for Trade Union Congress. The factory 'shifted' to Baddi following the July 8, 1996 Supreme Court ( sc ) judgement on relocation of polluting industries in Delhi. The mill workers got a favourable verdict from the sc which ruled on December 18, 1998 that they should report for work at Baddi on January 14 and 15 and be given their dues within a week.

The workers, who arrived in Baddi on January 13, 1998, alleged that they were not allowed inside the factory premises at Baddi and were forced to put up tents. On January 14 and 15, 1998, the workers signed on the attendance register in presence of the deputy labour commissioner of Delhi, K R Sahani outside the factory premises.

The court's deadline for paying workers their dues expired on January 15, 1998. A worker named Bharat died and 10 persons were taken ill. Sahi, who accompanied the workers, said that the workers demanded compensation for Bharat's family but the management ignored their demand and also refused to pay for transporting Bharat's body back to his family in Delhi. It was only when the workers donated Rs 100 each that Bharat's body could be bought back to Delhi, said Sahi.

According to Hardwar Dube of the Bandi Karkhana Sanyukt Sangharsh Samiti ( bksss ), a collective of workers formed after the closure of industrial units, there is no factory at the site, only a structure exists. The management has shifted just 24 machines to the site on which 30 workers can operate. The management was supposed to pay 27-month wages and shifting allowance to the workers, which amounts to Rs 1 lakh per person, Dube said.

On February 1, 1998, workers filed a petition in the sc arguing that the non-payment of dues by the management of the Birla Textiles Mills amounts to contempt of court. The two-member bench comprising Justice Saghir Ahmed and Justice M G Rao directed the Birla Textiles Mills to pay Rs 30,000 to every worker on February 8 and 9, 1998.

The judge asked the labour department of Delhi to ensure that each worker is paid the amount. On the other hand, the management of the Birla Textiles Mills has filed a writ petition in the sc asking for a complete review of all the orders given by the court since July 8, 1996.

The appeal will be heard on February 8, 1998. According to Dube , the management wants to delay paying compensation to the workers. At present the workers are caught between environmental protection laws and the management.

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