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Playing at DPL: your union or mine

- Sobhan tells power plant to deal with his faction, Dola dismisses ‘original’ claim

Durgapur, June 8: Trinamul trade union veteran Sobhandeb Chattopadhyay has requested Durgapur Projects Ltd to deal with the labour wing he heads at the power plant, staking claim to a recognition enjoyed by a faction headed by a loyalist of Dola Sen, his successor as Bengal INTTUC chief.

Despite Trinamul’s policy of one-factory-one-union, DPL has two INTTUC-affiliated labour wings — one headed by Trinamul trade union advisory committee member Chattopadhyay and the other by a Sen loyalist.

The Chattopadhyay-headed DPL Employees’ Association, however, has been lying defunct since leaders close to Sen set up the Durgapur Projects Workers’ Association in 2009.

Chattopadhyay’s letter to the management on June 2, in which he has claimed the DPL Employees’ Association is the “original” union, comes at a time Sen has lost the Asansol Lok Sabha seat despite the Trinamul sweep in Bengal. Trinamul leaders believe that factional rivalry in the industrial belt was one of the main reasons for Sen’s defeat.

Chattopadhyay has mentioned in the letter that DPL should deal with his union in the “interest of industrial peace, harmony and production”.

In the letter, copies of which have been forwarded to power secretary Gopal Krishna, the deputy labour commissioner of Durgapur and police, Chattopadhyay has written that the DPL Employees’ Association is the “original one for all practical purposes”. Assuring cooperation with the management, the letter states: “I would request you to kindly take this union into confidence.”

Chattopadhyay said he had come to know that the Durgapur Projects Workers’ Association, which “came into existence at a later date”, had been “taken into confidence by the management, bypassing this original union for reasons best known to them, resulting in confusion amongst the workers and infight between them”.

Chattopadhyay iterated to this newspaper that his faction was the “original” union. He refused comment on the one-factory-one-union policy.

DPL sources said the Durgapur Projects Workers’ Association, which is led by Debdas Majumdar, a leader close to Sen and former minister Malay Ghatak, ruled the roost at the power plant and Chattopadhyay’s labour wing had been sidelined.

Sen, who replaced Chattopadhyay as state INTTUC chief in 2010, said she had no clue about the union headed by the veteran or his letter.

“We have only one union at DPL. I have no clue about any such letter written by anybody. Nor do I know about a new union at the plant. We follow a one factory-one-union policy. We have unions in around 10,000 factories across the state. There may be some small problems in a few factories, but they are being sorted out,” she said.

DPL officials said they were confused as they had been dealing with the Durgapur Projects Workers’ Association for the past few years.

The officials said they were “fed up” with the skirmishes between the two factions at DPL after the Lok Sabha elections. “Multiple trade unions existed at the power plant earlier. But the situation improved after the chief minister intervened and announced that there would be one INTTUC union in each factory. However, the problems have resurfaced,” a senior DPL official said.

Following a series of clashes between INTTUC factions at factories in Durgapur and Asansol, then industries minister Partha Chatterjee had said at an INTTUC state conference in Durgapur last year that the one-union policy must be followed.

The working president of Chattopadhayay’s union, Amar Mandal, said he had told the management that henceforth, all discussions on workers’ benefits and welfare would have to be held with his unit. “We are the original INTTUC union at the plant and there must not be any scope for confusion. INTTUC leader Sobhandeb Chattopadhayay has written to DPL about this,” he said.

Durgapur Projects Workers’ Association general secretary Majumdar sought to turn the tables on the rival union. “My union is original and is affiliated to the INTTUC since 2009. The plant authorities will have to take us into confidence for smooth working. I can only say that they (DPL Employees’ Association) are fake and unauthorised,” he said.