He appeals to Chief Minister to take up the issue with the Centre

The contract workmen of the Neyveli Lignite Corporation should continue the strike even if they die of hunger but should never give up the right for economic and social justice, said Gurudas Dasgupta, MP and national general secretary of the All India Trade Union Congress (AITUC).

Addressing a press conference here on Thursday, Mr. Dasgupta said that he had come here to extend support and solidarity to the 13,000-strong contract workmen who were on strike for the past 27 days in support of their demands.

He charged the NLC management with breaching the earlier agreements that facilitated the regularisation of contract workmen in a phased manner and appropriate medical benefits.

The trend all over India was to engage contract labourers on the specious plea of cutting down the wage cost. However, the NLC was exploiting the skilled contract workmen and extracting from them works stretching for 12-14 hours.

Mr. Dasgupta said that it was a sham mockery of the labour laws and the Constitutional provisions that stipulated equality. Though the contract workmen were doing the kind of jobs the regular employees do they were discriminated against.

He asked, “Is it the way Aam aadmi should be treated by doling out injustice and discrimination?”

He said that the management was driving a wedge between the permanent employees and contract workmen.

However, he hastened to add that the AITUC did not have any quarrel with the regular employees. It was the request of the union that the regular employees should not fall a prey to the machinations of the management and be allowed themselves to be over exploited by the management.

The AITUC was also supporting the demands of the permanent employees. He underscored the point that what the AITUC demanding was that the contract workmen should be paid wages equivalent to that of the regular employees at the lowest rung, just as sweepers.

Mr. Dasgupta further noted that the incumbent Chairman-cum-Managing Director A.R. Ansari, who has hardly a month left for the completion of his tenure, was out to destroy the NLC.

The Chairman was playing havoc and the autocracy would not work. The NLC was spending hundreds of crores of rupees in procuring furnace oil to run the thermal power stations.

The NLC management that was splurging money to break the strike would not concede the rightful demands of the contract workmen.

Mr. Dasgupta said that the AITUC was fully aware of the critical power situation in Tamil Nadu.

However, the management was telling lies about the power generation and lignite production.

While power generation hardly stood at 1,000 MW (full capacity 2,490 MW) the management was giving out inflated figures to show that every thing was alright.

The MP appealed to Chief Minister Jayalalithaa to take up the issue with the Centre so as to find a speedy and an amicable solution.

He also met Coal Minister Sriprakash Jaiswal in New Delhi twice and broached the subject.

Mr. Dasgupta wished that the Coal Minister call for talks to resolve the issue.

He categorically said that all the Central trade unions, including CITU and HMS, were supporting the contract workmen.

District secretary of the AITUC M. Sekar was present.