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Labour unrest closes Howrah iron factory

Uluberia (Howrah), Sept. 12: Labour unrest has forced suspension of work at an iron-casting factory that makes manhole covers, meter boxes and ship anchors largely meant for exports.

Carnation Industries, which has an annual turnover of around Rs 100 crore, said it was forced to suspend work at its Uluberia unit after a section of labourers locked up employees and executives inside the factory for nearly 24 hours since yesterday demanding a wage revision.

Multiple sources pointed fingers at some Trinamul leaders, who denied any role. One of the leaders said the party would ensure the unit resumed production.

Carnation Industries, which has another plant in Liluah, has around 460 labourers, of whom 60 are on the company payroll while the rest have been hired through labour contractors.

Around 3pm yesterday, several workers on the payroll began protesting “inadequate” increase in wages. The hikes were between Rs 10 and Rs 30 a day, depending on the nature of job and performance.

“We tried to explain that the monthly hike would be considerable, given the fact that the labourers on our payroll work for 25 days a month. They also have PF and ESI facilities,” said Abhijit Biswas, the administrative head of the Uluberia unit.

“Those on our payroll continued with the protest. The labourers hired by contractors are happy with our offer. Some of the agitating workers met the management yesterday and demanded a further raise but we pleaded helplessness. After about an hour, the labourers blocked the factory gate and no one barring a doctor and a lady employee was allowed to leave,” Biswas added.

A company official said police were contacted several times between last afternoon and this morning but “they did not seem keen to bail out the employees and executives”.

“Around 8.30 last night, some policemen came and told me that I should speak to local Trinamul MLA Pulak Roy. I refused. At 12.45am, the policemen came again and asked me to speak to (local Trinamul leader) Deepankar Ghosh. I said ‘no’ again,” Biswas said.

Around 3pm today, a team led by subdivisional police officer Shyamal Kumar Samanta rescued the staff.

The vice-president of the factory’s Trinamul trade union unit, Dhananjoy Gonra, termed the labour unrest unfortunate. “We had been seeking a wage revision for the past four months. We had demanded Rs 190 daily but settled for Rs 135. It’s unfortunate that some labourers were egged on by local Trinamul leaders to protest. I have heard that Deepankar Ghosh, the president of Trinamul’s Maheshpur Anchal youth unit, was present with the agitators. The impasse could have been resolved through discussions,” he said.

Roy denied any role in the agitation. “I was not aware of any unrest till this morning. We will ensure that the factory starts production again.”

Ghosh said: “I went to the factory yesterday. But I did not instigate the labourers.”