Around one week after the mill management decided to partially suspend work, the entire mill operations have come to a halt due to the conflict of interest between employees and the mill management.
The management had recently announced suspension of work while the employee union leaders continued to protest demanding permanent status for temporary workers. This decision of the eight employees’ unions has further deepened the differences between the two sides.
Though both the sides do not favour a lockout, the management faced frequent conflicts with the unions over issues like increase of salaries, permanent job to all employees, dearness allowance and retirement age of employees.
Mill’s General Manager, B C Boradia complains of the attitude of the unions being responsible for the work suspension. He claimed that since the reopening of the mill on October 20, 2008, the unions had come up with new demands virtually daily.
“We required around 4,000 employees to complete the production target. But unfortunately the 2,300 present employees of the mill are more interested in protests than concentrating on work,” said Boradia.
In the past few months, jute production in the mill has gone down from 70 tonnes a day to 12 tonnes. The management had earlier reduced the work shift from three to two. Citing the official jute production figures of the mill, the management members claimed that it was not possible for them to increase the number of employees or accept the irrational demands of the employee unions.
Though the expected jute production is 75 tonnes per day, only 10-14 tonnes jute is being produced each day at J K Jute Mill. “It is not possible for the management to accept each demand. We want to start work only if the unions give a commitment to work as per norms and not to resort to violence,” added Singh.
The union members are also against the closure. J K Jute Mill Mazdoor Union leader Devendra Singh said, “It will be a major loss for us if the mill shuts down. Therefore, despite work suspension orders, we have carried out production while continuing with our protests.” The unions have meanwhile requested the labour commissioner to intervene in the matter.
This is not for the first time that J K Jute Mill has been plagued by problems. It was closed on June 21, 2003 because of financial crisis. Five years later, it was reopened. The mill started operations in October 2008, after being shut down in June 2003. After remaining closed for nearly six years, the mill had restarted operations in October 2008 following settlement of issues between the management and the workers’ union.
JK Jute Mills was set up in 1929. The management declared a lock-out in 2003 due to heavy losses, which led to 3,000 job losses. The adamant approach of J K Jute Mill employee unions has yet again posed a major problem before the mill management.
Famous for manufacturing conventional jute products, including Hessian and Sacking, J K Jute Mill closed down on June 21, 2003 due to heavy financial losses. Kolkata-based companies Sarda group and Mall group took over the ownership of the mill from J K group in 2007 and the mill was re-opened on October 20, 2008.