One of the achievement of CFTUI in Tamil Nadu in the South of India, took place at a company called INDIANFOOD Private Limited, located 18km from Madhurai (map). It produces food items, one of the main one being biscuits. In this factory, there are 97 regular workers. They were divided into three categories: skilled, semi-skilled and labour. The workers there had not received a wage increase in the last twenty years though this should have happened every three years. They were initially paid as follows (column one):

CATEGORY OF WORKERS
Monthly salary before CFTUI intervention (June 2013)
Demands from CFTUI Trade Union
Agreement after CFTUI intervention (after June 2013)
Machine Operators (skilled)
7.591 INR
25.000 INR
18.566 INR
Helpers (semi-skilled)
6.790 INR
20.000 INR
13.000 INR
Supporting staff, such Khalasis (labour)
5.575 INR
18.000 INR
13.000 INR

The yearly bonus was also increased from Rs 8,000/- to Rs 12,000/- for the regular workers. Besides the 97 regular workers, 150 casual daily workers also work in the same factory for the last years. They were involved in the food processing units like the other 97 workers, but the daily casual workers were never paid their wages as per the minimum wage act of Tamil Nadu state. According to this legislation, they are supposed to get between Rs 142 to Rs 200 per day, but they would receive between Rs 100/- to 150/-.

The above issue came to CFTUI’s notice and we negotiated with management, with the demands as noted in the table (column 2). Negotiations started in 2011 and took nearly 3 years. Fortunately, there was no need to go on strike due to the convincing approach of the local union supported by CFTUI, during the visit of the then General secretary and the present President. They met the management representatives of Tamil Nadu and the local leaders and were able to get the management to agree for better wages for the workers, with an average increase of 223%.
CFTUI also demanded to pay legal minimum wages for the casual daily workers. A lot of discussions took place which also involved the National President. Eventually, in June 2013, a tripartite agreement was reached before the Labour commission to enhance the wages of workers, as noted in the table’s last column. Regarding the casual daily workers who are carrying different types of jobs, the management agreed to increase their salary from Rs 142 to Rs 200/-, in accordance to the minimum wage act in Tamil Nadu.

M Kanaka Rao

     The main lesson the local union learned is that the advantage of belonging to a national level confederation, which can negotiate on their behalf when the situation is difficult for them to deal with. This achievement is one of the reasons that CFTUI got so many unions in its fold in Tamil Nadu, with currently 84 affiliated unions and 300.000 members.

Written by M Kanaka Rao, presented orally by Tamil Nadu CFTUI General Secretary Mr. KARADI

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