People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)


Vol. XXXV

No. 22

May 29, 2011

 

CITU CAMPAIGN EVOKES GOOD RESPONSE IN HYDERABAD

 

 

Gruesome Exploitation of

Unorganised Workers

J Venkatesh

 

THAT the contract workers and unorganised sector workers are paid less wages and do not enjoy any mandatory benefits like PF, ESI etc is well known. Even then the initial findings of a 12 day long extensive survey undertaken by the CITU Hyderabad city committee on their conditions will shock most of us. Twelve hour work is widespread; no company, including those run by the kin of famous politicians like former chief minister Chandrababu Naidu and former speaker Suresh Reddy, pay minimum wages to the workers; bonuses were not given for as long as 20 years; safety standards are non-existent in most chemical and pharmaceutical companies; some home based workers are paid as low as Rs 20 for their day's toil etc.

 

There are around 60,000 contract workers, 20,000 headload workers (hamalis) and 10,000 home based workers employed by companies in Hyderabad city area. This is excluding the big industrial areas in the suburbs of the city. As part of the state CITU decision to increase the organisation's efforts among these workers, broadly classified under these three clusters, the Hyderabad CITU committee undertook an extensive survey from May 2 to May 13. A total of 120 activists grouped in 38 teams conducted this survey in the industrial areas of Uppal, Nacharam, Charlapally, Mallapur, Moulali, Sanatnagar, Bahadurpur, Autonagar etc. The survey covered 1400 units and 84 bustees where the workers were living. Among the units, those employing 30 workers and above comprised 250; 20 and below 350; 10 workers and below 800.

 

It was not an easy job for the activists in conducting this survey. Many managements prevented their entry into the factories. They threatened the workers not to speak to the activists and in fact put the workers on surveillance while they were getting off duty. In areas like Uppal, Nacharam, Charlapally where CITU has good presence, there were fewer problems in conducting the survey. They spoke to workers during lunch break or while they finished their duty. In other areas, the activists spoke to the workers in detail in their living places. The workers too shook off their fears after the initial two days and poured out their grievances.

 

As per the initial reading of survey data, it is found that most the workers are paid a wage of around Rs 2500 Rs 3000 per month, much below the stipulated minimum wage of Rs 4030. In the Uppal unit of Heritage Foods, workers are being paid a monthly wage of Rs 3000 only. When the worker does not come to duty on a Sunday, his two days wages are cut! There is no single over time allowance, no holidays and no instance of paying bonus or compensation to the workers. This is the situation in a company owned and run by the wife of a former chief minister. Similarly in another dairy company, Jersey Milk Products, where also 200 workers are employed, the workers are paid a daily wage of Rs 120. In Padmaja Polymers, owned by the wife of former speaker of the assembly Suresh Reddy, the minimum wage paid is Rs 2500 to most of the workers and for some Rs 3000. In the oil mills in Bahadurpur area, where the contract workers are mostly migrant labour from Bihar and Orissa, the workers are paid a maximum of Rs 2500 per month. In all the above cases, there is no provision of weekly off, ESI facility, PF, bonus or maternity leave etc.

 

The nearly 20,000 headload workers in the city work in around 700 shops spread over wholesale markets like Maharajgunj, Kishangunj, Osmangunj and in wholesale fruit market in Gaddi Annaram or in the marbles market in Jubilee Hills. The survey covered all these shops and it was found that these workers are being paid a rate of Rs 30 per tonne. As per ILO norms, no worker should be made to carry more than 55 kgs. Nowhere was this being implemented as per our survey. No medical help or compensation is being provided in cases of accidents or health problems arising out of doing this heavy work. The CITU has campaigned among these workers that their rates must be raised to Rs 80 per tonne and implemented uniformly across all markets. This has found good response from the workers.

 

The nearly 10,000 home-based workers (around 4000 families) are working in the making of incense sticks, candles, cardboard boxes, embroidery work, bangles etc in the old city areas of Chandrayangutta, Yakutpura, Bahadurpura etc. The contractor provides them with the raw material and takes back finished goods to supply to various companies. CITU activists met with 800 of these workers and conducted the survey. After working for 8 to 12 hours a day, they are earning Rs 20 to Rs 40 per day. This is not even subsistence wage and the contractors delay the weekly payments to these workers In such a situation there is no question of expecting any facilities of identity cards, ESI, PF or bonus for these toilers. Most of them do not get work during the monsoon season. When they demand raising of the amount for each piece they make, the contractors threaten them of giving the work to some others.

 

ORGANISATIONAL

EFFORT

 

The CITU conducted an intensive awareness campaign among the workers during and after the survey period. Around 70,000 pamphlets in Telugu, Hindi and Urdu were printed and distributed among the workers. Six thousand posters were pasted in the areas where the survey was conducted and 25,000 badges with demands of the workers were pinned to the workers. A total of 19 conventions were held during the campaign period, particularly among the hamalis and home based workers in which 4200 workers participated. There was enthusiastic participation of home based workers in Chandrayangutta and Yakutpura zones in the meetings held after the survey began. Padayatras, public address campaign etc were also held. Hunger strike camps were conducted in the industrial areas from May 19 to May 22 on the demands of workers. This was as a prelude to the one day strike call given on May 24 for solving of these demands. Around 3500 strike notices were served to the managements. The strike evoked good response in the industrial areas where CITU has good presence with many factories forced to close for the day.

 

The detailed planning of the CITU city committee and regular review of its implementation has contributed to the success of this cluster campaign. Twice extended meetings of the CITU city committee, extended meetings of 16 zonal committees resulted in mobilising cadre in 92 divisions of the city in participating in the campaign. This effort of CITU needs to be consolidated in the coming period.