The Tamil Nadu State Marketing Corporation (TASMAC) having an annual turn over of more than Rs.12,000 crore should ponder over the pathetic situation in which its ‘load men' were working and regulate their conditions of employment in a fair and just manner, the Madras High Court Bench here has said.

Justice K. Chandru made the observation while dismissing a couple of writ petitions relating to a long pending dispute between members of three trade unions over carrying out loading and unloading work at the TASMAC liquor depots at Kappalur near here and Manalur in Sivaganga district.

No enactment

The judge pointed out that there was no law, such as the Maharashtra Mathadi, Hamal and Other Manual Workers (Regulations of Employment and Welfare) Act, 1969 or the Kerala Headload Workers Welfare Act, in Tamil Nadu regularising the service conditions of loading and unloading workers.

In the present case, the TASMAC had engaged certain labourers for loading and unloading of goods besides affixing seals supplied by the Prohibition and Excise Department on the Indian Made Foreign Liquor (IMFL) stock.

In due course, the workmen came to be represented by three different unions.

“Very soon, the names of trade unions lost their significance and later referred to even in the official communication as union led by Mahadevan, union led by A. Muthuraman and union led by Bose… Virtually there was a war between them to capture control over loading and unloading operations,” the judge said.

He went on to state: “The inter-se dispute between the workmen as well as dispute between the unions and the management were hardly taken before the forums under the Industrial Disputes Act as there was no law operating in this field. They were settled either through muscle power or at the intervention of law enforcing authorities i.e., Police or revenue officials headed by the District Collector.”

Proliferating petitions

The unions also filed a number of writ petitions on earlier occasions and obtained one or the other kind of orders.

However, the labourers failed to prove the employer-employee relationship between them and TASMAC especially when the latter had denied existence of any such relationship.

“Unfortunately, in the earlier rounds of litigation these issues were not gone into thereby proliferating number of writ petitions,” he added.

Local arrangements

“Till now the workmen were able to pull on with certain local arrangements made by the police, revenue and labour department. They can continue with such arrangement. The moment they try to seek their right before this court, it is incumbent upon them to establish their credential in terms of any known labour enactment. Merely filing writ petitions after writ petitions, they cannot anoint leaders of such vague trade unions so as to continue not only their suzerainty over the working group, but also dictate terms with the authorities by creating law and order situation,” the judge concluded.