20 May, 2022The Mumbai Labour Union (MLU) has been organizing workers at Viraj Steel for two years. The union has regularly raised issues related to workers’ rights, working conditions and wages. In response, management has tried to bust the union at every given opportunity since it was formed.
MLU, affiliated to SMEFI, counts 3,487 members out of the total 5,000 employees in Viraj Steel’s seven plants.
On 14 April, MLU submitted a charter of demands, but management refused to negotiate. 52 security guards in plant No.1, members of MLU, were transferred to another plant.
At the beginning of the month, the MLU announced a strike for16 May, citing harassment of union members, reduction in salary, lack of basic facilities like drinking water, chairs, tables for doing work, canteen facilities and toilets, as well as physical assault on union members by goons employed by management.
On 7 May, management at Viraj Steel Limited tried to engage contract workers at plant No.1, where permanent workers had previously been employed. The permanent workers tried to stop the contractor and contract workers from entering the workplace, who started throwing stones and bricks on the police and union members.
The employer filed a complaint with the police against the union representatives. The general secretary of MLU and 70 representatives were arrested and are still in police custody.
Sanjay Vadhavkar, SMEFI general secretary and member of IndustriALL executive committee says:
“Viraj Steel management is relentlessly trying to bust the union. They have directed police and local administration to attack union leaders and demoralize the unionized workers. But the union members stand united and are ready to face the challenges posed by the management.”
IndustriALL South Asia regional secretary Apoorva Kaiwar says:
“IndustriALL strongly condemns the attack against the union representatives and the workers. The union leaders should be released immediately and management should engage with the union and resolve the matter.”
Photo: Steel plant in Goa, India