It’s likely to reduce commitment from Rs.3.25 crore to Rs.1.25 crore a month

The State-run Anglo French Textile Mill (AFT) on Wednesday declared 45-day lay off, causing concern among its 1,400 labourers.

The lay off is expected to reduce the financial commitment of the mill on account of salary to workers from Rs. 3.25 crore to Rs. 1.25 crore a month. Responsibility of contributing to provident fund, ESI and other benefits will be suspended during the lay off period. Workers will only be eligible to draw 50 per cent of their salary.

V. Balan, Chairman, AFT Mill, told The Hindu on Wednesday that the lay off move was contemplated for quite sometime. As the accumulated loss of the mill had gone beyond Rs.100 crore, the management had no option but to follow this legally-accepted move to prevent further loss. The mill had followed all mandatory procedures before announcing lay off.

However, he said that it couldn’t be termed as a prelude to declare a lock out. There was no intention to declare lock out. The period would be used to take constructive works to arrange funds for restarting the mill. The territorial administration has also been appraised of the development.

The workers got to know of the development from the notice board of the 115-year-old mill, that has not paid salary to its employees for the past ten months.

The mill had partially resumed production after the AINRC came to power with financial infusion of Rs. 36 crore. But, mounting financial pressure on account of salary, electricity, maintenance and others forced the management to declare paid holidays within two months. Total loss and debt of the mill are estimated to be around Rs.110 crore and Rs.129 crore respectively.

Hours after the lay off, leaders of 13 unions of the AFT Mill held an urgent meeting to discuss about the future course of action. When contacted, V.S. Abishegam, secretary, Pondicherry Textile Mills, who presided over the meeting, said that the unions, which were fighting for resumption of production, were worried over the development.

However, there was no immediate plan to stage a protest as the government had said that it would take all steps to restart the mill within the lay off period.

As promised, the government should take steps on a war footing to sell 59 acres of land at Pattanur, which was bought at a cost of Rs.59 lakh with the profit earned by the mill in 1990. The unions had already submitted in writing to sell the land to settle VRS dues, pending salary and others.