Sporadic incidents of friction reported in the Neyveli Township

Though a semblance of normality has returned to the Neyveli Lignite Corporation following the withdrawal of the 13-day-old strike on Monday evening by the employees, rumblings are being heard about their attitude and approach towards work obligations.

Soon after the Tamil Nadu Government clinched the deal with the Securities and Exchange Board of India to buy the five per cent NLC shares at Rs. 500 crore, the employees gave up strike and returned to work.

According to S. Rajavanniyan, general secretary of the Labour Progressive Front (Neyveli unit) the employees have decided to adhere to the work-to-rule procedures from Wednesday, as the developments in the last fortnight have nudged them to adopt such a posture.

Elaborating, Mr. Rajavanniyan told The Hindu that the rules stipulated eight-hour shift for employees with rightful breaks in between for refreshment. As such prior to the strike the employees and workers never went by the clock but always put in extra work of say two to two-and-half hours daily beyond their shift obligation.

However, when the foremen reported for duty on Tuesday they were told that their compensatory off status was not reflected in the computer data. It meant that four categories of foremen who were entitled to get the compensatory off (“dharma off” in local parlance) at the rate of two days a month, besides the mandatory casual leave, would not get the benefit.

The foremen, numbering about 2,000, used to put in extra hours of work to facilitate smooth change over from one shift to the other as it would normally take some time before the fresh batch of employees replaces the previous batch. (Such a practice is termed as “man-to-man relieving”).

Mr. Rajavanniyan emphatically said that the proposed action of the employees should not be construed as either a threat to the management or an anti-management move.

“Taking time-off is indeed the legal rights of the employees which they will duly exercise hereafter.”

Asked about the reason behind taking such a decision Mr. Rajavanniyan said that during the strike period an impression was sought to be created by the authorities that regardless of the strike they could maintain power generation at a comfortable level.

In fact, the thermal power stations could be sustained through the strike period only on the strength of the lignite stockpile already made by the workforce.

Had there been any adverse weather condition it could have played the spoil sport.

Asked about the likely fallout of their move, Mr. Rajavanniyan said that the employees and the workforce in the mines and the thermal power stations would unfailingly take the tea/tiffin break. During such intervals the officials could not take over as the entire functionality would be with the employees. He reiterated the point that “it would not be a vengeful act but a rightful act on the part of the employees as provided under the law.”

Strained relations

Certain sporadic incidents were reported in the Neyveli Township on Tuesday. A contract workman was manhandled by some employees as the former reportedly worked during the strike period.

In protest against such a physical assault fellow workmen gathered in front of the mine gate. However, after a while the officials persuaded them to resume work.

In another incident an employee picked up a quarrel with a canteen worker on the quality of sambar. Though these were minor incidents it bespoke of the strained relations among the workforce.

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