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Militant Citu forces shutdown

Howrah, May 15: Militant trade unionism is back in the news. Not for having made a retreat from Bengal, but for forcing the management of a wagon-making company in Howrah to suspend work.

The management of Hindustan Engineering and Industries Ltd’s engineering unit at Santragachhi, 15 km from Calcutta, issued the suspension- of-work notice this morning after days of strike by a unit of the CPM’s labour arm, Citu.

The Citu-affiliated Mazdur Union began the no-work protest on Tuesday after the management showcaused 15 workers of the welding department.

The notice, which cited militant activities of the workers as reason for the suspension of work, has rendered 1,108 workers out of job.

The management said it was forced to take the decision because of the “unjustified, illegal and unwarranted strike” called by the workers.

Members of the union drove senior personnel out of their offices when they refused to comment on the showcause notices. Mahadeb Ghosal, the vice-president of the union, said: “The management wanted to suspend the workers without giving them time to offer an explanation. When we confronted them, they declined comment and said only higher officials could. We drove them out of the plant premises and asked them to bring in those who could talk on the issue.”

Since Thursday, the union has not allowed a single senior official to enter the factory.

Ghosal alleged that a week’s salary was being deducted from the monthly pay of around 400 workers for the past three months. “The company did not offer any explanation for this action.”

In the suspension-of-work order, the company alleged that despite repeated requests, the workers did not show any interest in increasing production. “The strike is continuing and none of the management officials are being allowed to enter the plant. Even trucks bringing raw materials are not being allowed to unload. The truck drivers are being threatened with dire consequences for trying to enter the plant,” said A.R. Dasgupta, the vice-president (plant).

Leaders of the Intuc-affiliated Employees’ Union said a “rash move” of the Citu unit has left the workers with an uncertain future.

“It was decided between the unions and the management that a unanimous decision will be taken on the increase in production, but despite repeated requests, the union did not agree to a meeting with the management. Suddenly, they took this decision,” said Dakshina Mazumdar, an Employees’ Union leader.

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