India: Tata Steel subsidiary workers face police attack

11.10.2017

In the night of 22 September, Tata Steel subsidiary Tayo Rolls workers and their families, including children, were brutally beaten up by the police while peacefully protesting against the company’s closure, demanding alternative employment or appropriate compensation.

Workers and their families were protesting in front of the gate of the TATA steel plant in Jamshedpur, when they were beaten up by a group of police officers, who also used a water cannon. About 40 protestors were injured in the attack.

Police have also filed trumped-up charges against many workers.

The protesting workers are demanding:

  • Payment of pending wages
  • Alternative employment for workers in other TATA companies
  • If no alternative employment can be offered, workers may be paid compensation of 100 months basic wages and an allowance for the cost of living adjustment (dearness allowance), as provided during the closure of a section of Tinplate Company of India Limited (TCIL) unit, belonging to the same group of companies, few years earlier

IndustriALL Global Union regional secretary Apoorva Kaiwar says:

Police attacking workers is wholly unacceptable. IndustriALL calls on management to enter into negotiations to resolve the issue. They should also take immediate steps to withdraw the police cases against the protesting workers to safeguard the interests of workers and their families.

In September 2016, Tayo Rolls Limited (TAYO), subsidiary of Tata Steel Limited, filed a closure application seeking permission from the government to close the unit. At this time, the company employed around 399 permanent workers, along with about 700 contract workers.

At the same time, the company offered a voluntary separation scheme (VSS) to the workers, as a compensation for voluntarily agreeing to end employment. While many workers accepted the VSS, about 284 regular workers did not, arguing that the compensation 18 months basic wages and dearness allowance initially provided through VSS was insufficient.

The workers challenged the closure, and filed a petition to the labour, employment and training department, seeking the government to reject the closure application. Workers argued that corrupt practices of company officials had led to company losses, and that the company should be revived and employment should be provided to all workers. As the company is a subsidiary of TATA steel, there is capacity to provide alternative employment to workers in other units.

On 27 October 2016, the principle secretary of the labour department of Jharkhand passed an order rejecting the closure application.

The company stopped paying wages in October 2016. Workers are demanding that the company continue to pay wages according to Payment of Wages Act, as the government rejected the closure application.

Workers have not been paid for the last 11 months. In June 2017, workers filed a case in labour court, seeking the court to direct the company to pay wages. The issue is under review.

Meanwhile, the company has appealed to the high court regarding the closure, with proceedings currently in process.

Rakeshwar Pandey of the Tayo workers union says:

We condemn the police attack on peaceful protestors. The issue is in courts at various levels. However, such harsh action is not expected from the TATA management and the government. TATA management should come forward to resolve the issue through democratic means.