April 11: The Assam Apex Weavers and Artisans Co-operative Federation Limited (Artfed) Sipini Sangha today alleged that the federation’s management had been exploiting the weavers and helpers by paying them meagre salaries, which, in no way, compensated for the amount of work they did.
The Sangha made the allegation during its workers’ convention organised in the city today.
At present, Artfed employs 95 weavers and helpers in its weaving units in the Bamunimaidam industrial estate and in Nalbari district.
The Sangha had even launched a protest programme demanding an increase in salary of these exploited employees in accordance with the interim pay structure of grade III and grade IV employees.
“Artfed employs 95 weavers and helpers at present. Although these weavers are very skilled and work hard, the federation’s management pays them a meagre salary that is in no way on a par with the amount of clothes they weave. While the weavers receive Rs 3,390 per month, their helpers get Rs 3,000. It is extremely difficult for them to sustain their families with so little money. Therefore, we want the management to stop exploiting them and pay them according to interim pay structure of grade III and grade IV employees that will include house rent, provident fund and gratuity, as well as committed pension. We also want that they should receive an yearly increment in their salary as other government employees,” the Sangha’s president, Tapas Das, said.
“The weavers have been working as regular employees for so many years. But apart from the Rs 3,390, they have been denied other facilities. They are given a target of weaving 25 pieces of clothes per month and if they are able to weave more than that, they are paid Rs 30 for each extra piece of cloth in addition to their pay,” the Sangha’s general secretary Jamini Deka said.
On the other hand, the Sangha had also launched a protest programme on March 19, demanding better wages for its weavers and helpers. Although they refrained from working for a few days, they returned for work from April 4, after they were asked by the under secretary of the state labour department to call off the strike.
“Artfed receives funds worth crores of rupees from the Centre in the name of these weavers. But in reality, the weavers do not even get the pay they rightly deserve. In fact, if it wishes, the Artfed management can even employ more such weavers with better pay,” Das said.
The Sangha has also threatened to go on strike if the Artfed management did not fulfil its demands. “We will stage a dharna in front of the government emporium, Jagaran, on April 24. We will definitely go on an indefinite strike if our demands are not met,” Deka said.