Power cut for almost 12 hours a day in Coimbatore and even longer in the rural areas has not only crippled operations in the industries but also resulted in another problem - workers, especially those from other States and districts, are returning home as the job market has slowed down here.
Prakash, a labour contractor in Coimbatore, says he used to get workers from other States for about five industries here. The demand used to be for 100 workers for each unit. Now, he caters to the needs of just one unit and it is just about 20 or 30 workers. Migrant workers in the engineering units here are from West Bengal, Assam, Orissa, Jharkhand, and Bihar. Many of them started returning to their home town when the power cut hours became longer.
There are more than 100 such labour contractors here. Workers know that there is not much work in the units here because of the power cut, he says.
“Earlier, we used to call those having contacts of workers from other States regularly to meet the labour shortage. Now, we get calls from workers asking is there is job in the unit,” says an entrepreneur in Pollachi.
R. Ramachandran, president of Coimbatore District Small Industries’ Association, explains that nearly 60 per cent of the small and medium-scale industries have generators. Many of them have gone in for automation at least for part of the operations. Thus, the requirement of workers has reduced to some extent. But, the units continue to face labour shortage as the workers are going back home or to some other job. They do not have work for 12 hours a day and hence, do not get the expected wages, he says.
Micro industry owners point out that the migrant workers expect at least Rs. 10,000 monthly wages. They are ready to work for extra hours every day. However, with the power cut, there is no overtime. The micro industries are unable to operate with generators because of the increasing diesel price, many of them have lost orders. Hence, they are unable to pay the workers the expected amount. There is a drop in the number of migrant workers who were working in the district and this leads to labour shortage even when the orders are not high.