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TN move to bring textile workers under wages Act irks mills

G. Gurumurthy

Coimbatore , April 6

THE Tamil Nadu Government's recent move to bring the textile workers under the wrap of minimum wages Act (MWA) has put the 1,600-strong textile mills in the State in a tizzy.

An order issued by the Department of Labour and Employment dated February 9 has already kicked off a wider debate within the textile industry on the long-term implication of the order.

As per the GO, 1,600 textile mills are at present functioning in the State and the workmen in these units are getting wages based on settlements. During the past three years, according to the order, a majority of the textile mills had retrenched permanent workmen and filled their places with new hands paying wages ranging from Rs 40-50 per day.

In units where there is no trade union, their workers are being given wages from Rs 10-30 per day without observing any labour laws; whereas the workers covered under the wage settlements/court orders are getting Rs 180 per day as wages.

In view of the above, the Government felt the necessary to include the employment in the textile mills to schedule-I of the MWA, 1948.

The GO has called upon the industries to respond for the proposed addition to the Act. Since the objections or suggestions on the proposed move are to be filed within three months of the notification, it is to be seen how the industries would confront the issue.

Being an organised industry, the Government bringing the textile workers under the MWA has expectedly stirred up the industry as it feels that the Act could be applicable only for the unorganised sector. Further, the wage policy for textile sector has all along been decided through the awards from special industrial tribunal constituted by the Government. One such tribunal constituted in 2002 has been currently processing the wages disputes in the State.

According to textile industry sources, the special tribunal now hearing the textile workers wage issue has already passed 230 individual wage settlements so far. This being the case, the Government move to include the textile workers under the MWA is nothing but a "parallel" exercise and an attempt to breach the "peaceful" system prevailing in the industry, the sources added.

Piqued by the order, a few industry bodies are expected to file their objections shortly with the Government, it is learnt.

The Dindigul-based Tamil Nadu Spinning Mills Association (TASMA), an upcoming regional textile spinners body in southern Tamil Nadu, is said to have called its members for a meet on April 8 to discuss the issue.

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