Century mill workers embark on relay fast in Indore

They are demanding the mill management to comply with Industrial Tribunal’s order and open the gates of the mills. Thousands of workers look forward to saving and running the textile mills and ensuring employment, not meagre cash as VRS.

century mill
Indore: The Satyagraha by thousands of workers at Century Yarn, denim mills to ensure employment has reached a new stage. The 500 days struggle of the workers has compelled the management to cancel the fraudulent Business Transfer Agreement between Century and Wearit, after the orders by the Tribunal as well as the Madhya Pradesh High Court.
When the four unions along with a few members decided to opt for VRS, against the workers’ wishes, the majority workers decided and formed a separate union ‘Shramik Janata Sangh’.
After the Tribunal’s order dated February 6, the Century management was directed to pay the remaining wages for two and a half months from October 2017 to December 2017. But when the majority of workers filed an application before the Ld. Labour Commissioner regarding payment of all the remaining wages, from October 2017 to April 2018, the management surrendered to workers’ unity and force. On February 25, the wages of this period plus the bonus for October 2017 to March 2018 was deposited. In addition to this, the Tribunal also directed the management to open the gates and allow the workers to enter the mills.
It has been around 20 days and the management are yet to comply. That’s why the workers have started an indefinite relay fast in front of the Labour Commissioner’s office, demanding the management to open the gates of the mills, as per the order of the Tribunal and let the workers start the cleaning and maintenance work at least, if not production, in order to prevent the irreparable damage to the machinery. Also, the overwhelming majority of workers are demanding that if Century is not able to run the mills on their own, then as per their written letters to the unions and affidavits filed before the Tribunal, they should transfer the mills to workers’ organisation at 1 Re /- and let them run the mills. The 90% majority of workers have taken advice and consultancy from various experts across the country and are ready for a mill takeover and run them profitably. 
Senior journalist Chinmay Mishra, Father Binoy from Tamil Nadu and social worker Ramswaroop Mantri from Indore came and extended their support to the relay fast.
Mishra emphasized the strength of Satyagraha and said it’s because of the struggle of the unified workers that today Century management has bowed down and workers are winning every battle. He also questioned the position of the unions and said it’s really very disappointing that the unions, whose vision and the goal should be to stand for the rights and will of the workers, are today standing against them. Father Binoy expressed gratitude for the chance given to join the struggle and said all the struggles across the country whether it’s in Tamil Nadu or in Madhya Pradesh, address common issues of deprivation and displacement from livelihood. He said that in this era, it is very important for us to fight for our rights.

Mantri extended his support to the worker’s struggle on behalf of the socialist unity of MP. He warned Century management to comply with the orders of the Tribunal otherwise the spark of this struggle will spread to the whole state and workers from various parts will stand for them in solidarity. He also demanded the Commissioner’s office to intervene in this matter urgently in favour of the workers and help them avail of their rights and ensure justice.
The next hearing in the Tribunal on the original application is scheduled for March 18, 2019.
The Avahan Satyagraha continues with an appeal to the new government of Madhya Pradesh by Shramik Janata Sangh to take a stand and resolve the conflict and end the dispute by ensuring compliance and employment to the workers in struggle.
The 900 workers of the mill staged a walkout in October 2017 to mark their protest, as the Birlas sold off the mill to Wearit Global Ltd., a corporate entity based out of Kolkata. The workers alleged that the Birla’s sold off over 84 acres of land, buildings, machinery etc. for a meagre price of Rs 2.5 crore to Wearit.
Speaking to Newsclick, Saurabh, an activist with the Sharamik Janata Sangh, said, “The Birlas have been in a legal tussle over the land, wanting to get rid of the property, leaving the fate of the workers hung. This did not go down well with the workers who have been calling this unit home for the past 25 years, hailing from different states across the country. The skills acquired at the mill cannot be put to use anywhere else.”
He added, “The fact is that the workers here believe that the Birlas wanted to sell off the company. In order to do so, the company wanted to show that it was not making any profit. It was convenient for them to shut the venture down, making the workers anxious, leaving them with no livelihood.”
With the subsequent intervention of Medha Patkar and the Janta Shramik Sangh, the workers found legal representation as well as a sense of being united against the Birlas. With enormous pressure building over the Birlas through regular protests, the issue was also addressed by the Industrial Tribunal.  The Tribunal passed two orders in 2018 in favour of the workers. The first one declaring the Business Transfer Agreement (BTA) to be ‘ingenuine’, and the second order cancelling the BTA between the Birlas and the Wearit Ltd.



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