BY Sudhir Katiyar. After the massive strike of kiln workers, the Committee formed under the direction of the District Collector visited brick kilns and has submitted its recommendations. Members of the Solidarity Committee played an active role. The Co …

Andrew

BY Sudhir Katiyar.

After the massive strike of kiln workers, the Committee formed under the direction of the District Collector visited brick kilns and has submitted its recommendations. Members of the Solidarity Committee played an active role. The Committee has made a number of recommendations for the welfare of the workers.

The Collector has decided to hold a meeting in the Qutbullapur Mandal to give follow up directions. It is expected that (i) a final wage rate as close as possible to the minimum wage rate of Rupee (Rs) 367 (£4.29) would be declared (ii) a vigilance committee will be formed to ensure that this wage rate is implemented.

In the meantime Prayas field team has renewed contact in field for the workers. For the month immediately following the strike, the contact was maintained only through cell phone as there was apprehension of violence from employers. It was decided to hold a workers’ meeting in Dundigal so that the public space in Dundigal can be reclaimed. The meeting is now scheduled for May 1. The Hyderabad Unit of IFTU has agreed to do the flag hoisting that day. In addition, the Dundigal Unit of CITU has also agreed to participate in the programme.

The workers now want to go home. The long season is drawing to a close. Normally the Vaisakhi Poonam (May 6 this year) marks the closure of the season. However the employers have a tendency to prolong the session as much as possible. They simply refuse to settle the accounts thus forcing the workers to continue working. Thus workers may be forced to work till the middle of June. The employers do not have to pay any wages.

The workers have to work against food costs only that is calculated at Rs. 50-55 (58-64 pence) per 1000 bricks. According to our calculations, most workers have paid back their loans even if their wages are calculated at as low as Rs. 200 per 1000 bricks (as against the minimum wage of Rs. 367) as shown in box below

Average Work done, payment received, and wages accrued:

Average productivity per worker: 400 bricks per day

Average advance per worker: Rs. 10,000 (£117)

Average food cost given by owners: Rs. 50-55/1000 bricks made

Average duration of stay by end April: 180 days

Average total production per worker: 72,000 bricks

Food cost received: Rs. 3600 (£42)

So total wages received by workers: (advance + food cost)= Rs. 13,600 (£159)

Accrued wages at Rs. 200 (the minimum wage is Rs. 367) per 1000 bricks = Rs. 14,400 (£168)

Balance in favour of worker: Rs. 800 (£9.35)

The Prayas field team came across two poignant cases on Sunday that are described below.

Pregnant woman worker not allowed to go home: At Ainkatesh bhatti, Bharti Ajeet Das is now eight month pregnant. The family wants to go home for delivery. However the owner is not willing to let the whole family go home. He says that only the woman can go home. So the whole family is forced to stay back and work.

Children held back to ensure the return of husband for work: Naveen is a worker at Jalandhar bhatti. He is suffering from Chicken Pox. His wife is severally anaemic. The family wanted to go back home. However the owner allowed only the wife to be taken home on 29April. So Naveen went back home with his wife leaving behind his children. He was not even given a fare for travel. He was asked to adjust it against his food allowance.

These two extreme cases illustrate the general conditions. Workers are exhausted after the long work season. They are falling sick. They want to go back. They are not even bothered with wages at this stage. However the owners are not willing to let them go. We are now faced with the challenge of securing expeditious release of workers.

Sudhir Katiyar

Prayas CLRA



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