Chhattisgarh: Dharna at Jamul withdrawn after assurance,Struggle continues

Chhattisgarh (Press Note/10 Jan 15):  On 6 am on 9th January, in biting cold,the families of contract workers of the old plant of ACC-Holcim at Jamul, women and children blocked the 3 gates to the expansion plant.

By 8am, hundreds of workers engaged in construction were gathered at the gates. These workers, mostly from outside Chhattisgarh are themselves victims of the anti-labour policies of Holcim.

Brought on false assurances of high pay, at present they have not been paid for the past 2 months even their pittance of wage (sometimes not even minimum wage). Although PF is supposedly deducted, they have yet to be given PF slips proving that it has been deposited. Made to work long hours at heights and in unsafe conditions, there is a high turnover of these workers, many of whom run away to freedom without even bothering to pick up wages. There have been at least three fatalities during the construction of the expansion but Holcim does not let even the police let alone PCSS activists visit the expansion site.

On 9th January, these workers patiently listened to the PCSS representatives who talked of united struggle and co-operated fully with the demonstrating workers of the old plant and their families. Some of them returned and others joined in to shout slogans against Holcim.

By 11 am, there were a growing number of women and other family members at the gates. Meanwhile the old plant was running smoothly.

A tense management tried to persuade the families at the gates and the PCSS representatives with a blatant lie that “talks were going on with their lawyer Sudha Bharadwaj”. The PCSS gave a befitting reply – she is our lawyer and will listen to us, we decide, she doesn’t!! They clearly said that they had made efforts to talk to the management for the past two years right from Jamul to Berne yet the Holcim was refusing to resolve the serious issues. It was clearly ridiculous that after investing crores and completing around 80% of the expansion of the plant, the company did not still have the figures for manning the plant. The PCSS demanded tripartite negotiations in the presence of a senior representative of the government.

Crowds gathered to watch the protestors sit in front of gates and be served the standard Chhattisagarhi rice and vegetable curry.

At 4.30 pm hundreds workers from the old plant also joined in for a huge general body meeting at the site itself for two hours.

The police and administration representatives present in growing numbers were also anxious to find an amicable resolution. They were making franctic calls to their officers, since it appeared that the Collector and other senior members of the district administration were involved in resolving a land dispute of two MLAs!

FINALLY THE DHARNA WAS SUSPENDED AFTER AN ASSURANCE WAS GIVEN IN WRITING THAT A TRIPARTITE MEETING WOULD BE HELD BEFORE THE COLLECTOR, WHERE THE MANAGEMENT WOULD COME WITH ALL THE DETAILS OF THE NEW PLANT.

The demands of the PCSS to be considered are:

– all contract workers of the old plant to be absorbed in the new plant on cement board wages

– 41 workers denied work be taken on work

– workers engaged in construction in the expansion plant would be given gate passes attendance cards, PF slips  etc, and would be paid their outstanding wages.

PCSS thanks all of you for your prompt support. The Paschim Banga Khet Mazdoor Samiti, Airport Workers Union, Maruti Workers Union, Lokayat Pune, NTUI expressed their solidarity. Sanhati, India Resists, Feminists India Group, Chhattisgarh Ke Log and WSS carried our appeals.

The struggle is only just begining, we hope we will continue to get your support.

In solidarity,

Bansilal Sahu, Lakhan Sahu, Ramakant Banjare, Rajkumar Sahu

Pragatisheel Cement Shramik Sangh

Saraswati Sahu, Kaladas Dehariya, Neera Dehariya,Sudha Bharadwaj

Chhattisgarh Mukti Morcha (Mazdoor Karyakarta Committee)