Jalpaiguri, March 6: The management of a jute mill in Jalpaiguri's Rajganj suspended work indefinitely yesterday as the unit was running losses because of the high rate of absenteeism among workers and shortage of raw materials.
The decision would adversely affect 400 employees, trade union leaders said. Among them, 156 are permanent workers, another 250 worked on contract.
Representatives of different trade unions dubbed the decision of the management of HB Agro Industries Limited as irrational and said there was a different motive for closing the jute mill.
Umesh Chandra Sahu, the mill owner, said they were incurring losses for the past few months because of shortage of raw materials and high absenteeism among workers.
"For the past few months, we have been facing acute shortage of raw materials and have been consistently incurring losses. Added to that was the high rate of absenteeism among workers, which is why we could not function at an optimum rate. Lack of work culture was largely affecting our operations and we could no longer run the unit because of financial stringency," said Sahu.
"We did not want to close down the mill but circumstances forced us to take the harsh decision," he said.
Sahu, however, did not clarify when they intended to reopen the mill.
According to local people, as workers of HB Agro Industries Limited, reached the jute mill yesterday, they found that the management had put a notice, announcing suspension of work for an indefinite period.
This made the workers angry and they resorted to protests and demanded the immediate reopening of the mill.
"Other than the workers, around 100 other people are indirectly dependent on the mill and earn a living because of the industrial unit. A sudden decision by the management to close down the unit has also left these people unemployed," said a senior trade union leader of INTTUC - the workers' front of Trinamul.
Azizul Karim, a Citu leader of Rajganj, said they have condemned the decision and will soon launch a protest.
"If the management was facing problems like absenteeism, they should have consulted the workers and us so that the problem could be resolved. There is no point of closing down the mill without any prior information to the workforce. We suspect the management has some other intentions which is why they have announced the suspension of work," said Karim.
"We want the management to hold bipartite talks and resolve any problem associated with the workforce. If the management refuses to negotiate and adhere to its stance of keeping the jute mill closed, we will have no other option but to launch a movement," he added.
Mithu Mohanta, the Jalpaiguri district INTTUC president, echoed Karim.
"The management should have held talks with trade union leaders. They should immediately re-open the closed jute mill or else we will launch a movement."