The Life of Labour: MTNL Workers Unpaid for 2 Months, 2 Lakh Auto Sector Jobs Cut

Latest news updates from the world of work.

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Maharashtra to introduce ‘game changer’ job generating scheme 

The Maharashtra government plans to launch a Chief Minister Employment Generation Programme (CMEGP) on the lines of the Prime Minister Employment Generation Programme, with an ambitious target of generating 10 lakh jobs in the next five years, Hindustan Times reported. Rs 15 lakhs each will be provided to 10,000 micro, small and medium-sized industrial units (MSME) in return for 2 lakh jobs every year. 

The programme will reportedly have 30% reservation for women entrepreneurs and one lakh units in total have been planned with 40% of them in rural areas. More details of the scheme can be found here

This is the latest in a series of moves the government has recently announced keeping the upcoming polls in mind. Earlier, minimum wages were doubled in the state and further, 80% reservation for locals in employment is also being considered. 

Ten thousand MSME units will be given a cash fillip. Representative image of a woman testing LED bulbs at an MSME unit in Mumbai. Photo: Reuters/Francis Mascarenhas

BSNL, MTNL employees protest over non-payment of salaries

State-owned telecom companies Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL) and Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Limited (MTNL) have failed to pay salaries to their 1.98 lakh employees for the second time. “Salary for the month of July has not come. There is also no information when will it be credited,” All India Unions and Associations of Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (AUAB) convenor P. Abhimanyu told PTI.

Illustration by Aliza Bakht

Illustration by Aliza Bakht

MTNL, which has 22,000 employees, has not paid salaries for two months now. Its employees protested in front of Sanchar Bhawan on Monday. The salary delay is being attributed to the fact that both telecom PSUs have not been able to generate enough revenue and the government has not yet provided any packages for revival. 

While BSNL employees have not received their salaries for the month of July, MTNL employees have not received it for the last two months. 

Ordnance factory workers to go on month-long strike 

Times of India has accessed a document that outlines the plans for “restructuring” of ordnance factories. The stated reason for restructuring is for them “to perform on the lines of global giants like Lockheed Martin and BAE Systems”.

Ordnance factories are government-owned defence contractors that produce arms, ammunitions, armoured vehicles, clothing and support equipment for India’s defence forces. There are 41 ordnance factories across India. Their headquarters are at the Ordnance Factory Board located in Kolkata. The units employ between 85,000 and 1 lakh people.

Three national-level trade unions, All India Defence Employees Federation (AIDEF), Indian National Defence Workers Federation (INDWF) and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh-affiliated Bharatiya Pratiraksha Mazdoor Sangh (BPMS) have come together to protest against the move, claiming that national security will be put at risk if private players are involved in defence production.

Ordnance factories are government-owned defence contractors. File image of an ordnance factory. Photo: Reuters

They plan to go on a month-long strike starting on August 20.

“A private manufacturer always only looks at the profit. National interest will be the last of his priorities. Quality assurance in the private sector will be outsourced to third party inspections and then there is self-certification. This will be equal to putting the lives of our jawans and armed forces at risk. OFBs only work for national interest. One cannot trust production of core items like missiles or other key ammunitions to a private players,” M.K. Ravindran Pillai, vice-president of AIDEF, told The Week.

The Hindu reported that West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee has also written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi urging him to “stall and reverse the process of corporatisation and privatisation” of ordnance factories. 

Sun pharma terminates 85 employees 

In a bid to optimise operational costs and combat industry slowdown, India’s biggest drug maker Sun Pharma has reportedly terminated the employment of 85 of its workers from two research and development centres in Vadodara. These employees will be given three months’ pay as severance. The company claims that it will be offering outplacement services. 

“The scientists were engaged in the clinical pharmacology unit, which is part of research and development operations,” says a report in The Times of India. The report also says that the workers were not given any prior intimation of their termination of service and got to know only when they reported to work on Friday.

Two lakh people lose jobs in three months due to continuing auto slump

Automobile industry body Federation of Automobile Dealers Associations (FADA) has claimed that there has been a loss of two lakh jobs in automobile dealerships in the last three months as retailers are resorting to retrenching manpower to tide over an unprecedented slowdown in sales.

Maruti Suzuki, India’s biggest car maker, registered its biggest sales drop yet in 2019. Photo: PTI

The automobile sector in India is both capital and labour intensive, and prolonged slowdown can cause significant job losses and even affect GDP growth. Warning that a continued slowdown will lead to cuts in technical jobs as well, FADA has asked for immediate government intervention through measures such as reduction of GST in the auto industry.

“This is not a permanent demand. We know GST is a huge developmental agenda for the government, but at the same time (it is needed for) reviving the auto industry. We (auto industry) comprise almost 8% of the GDP and 49% of manufacturing GDP,” FADA president Ashish Harsharaj Kale told PTI.

According to a report in Hindustan Times, Tata Motors is also feeling the heat of the market slowdown in its operations at Adityapur Industrial Area, Jamshedpur. Tata Motors has gone for block closure for the fourth time since last month,” the report said. 

Honda Motorcycle & Scooter India (HMSI), another auto giant, has also retrenched 700 contractual workers from its manufacturing plant in Manesar, Haryana in recent months. The job cut has been attributed to a slowdown in production since December last year. Sluggish growth and high inventory have worsened the situation. “This is the worst phase of the industry. We have not seen such a prolonged slowdown ever,” Rajan Wadhera of the Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers (SIAM), told Financial Express.

International news

Senators urge Google to give temporary workers full-time status

According to a report in The New York Times, Democratic senators in the US have written a letter to Google’s chief executive, Sundar Pichai, to stop its “anti-worker practices” and demanded equality at workplace. Google employs 120,000 temporary and contractual workers, the letter asks the tech giant to convert them into full time workers. 

The letter cites a report from NYT about “a shadow work force of temps, contractors and other contingent workers brought in through staffing companies.”

Subscribers of The Life of Labour would know that this has been a long-standing demand of trade unions in India as well. The Indian parliament had even passed a legislation to address exploitative contractual work, called the Contract Labour (Regulation & Abolition) Act, 1970.

However, once the new labour codes are enacted, this Act will no longer be valid. Unions allege that in the garb of “ease of doing business”, the Modi government has been trying to legalise a “hire and fire” regime through legislations like the labour codes and Fixed Term Employment.

Google employs 120,000 temporary and contractual workers. Photo: Reuters

Extra reading:

The Workers’ Sabbatical – Read here.

Zara Promises Sustainability, But What About Its Garment Workers? – Read here.

The Visible and Invisible Barriers to Indian Women Working – Read here

Dial ‘M’ for Manufacturing – Read here.

How Labour Reforms Are Destroying Workers’ Lives in Rajasthan – Read here.