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Dark days ahead for workers of scented candle factory

Mohit M. Rao
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Management says will pay January’s salary but non-committal on future

Workers of Primacy Industries coming out after a meeting at Baikampady Industrial Area in Mangalore.— PHOTO: H.S.MANJUNATH
Workers of Primacy Industries coming out after a meeting at Baikampady Industrial Area in Mangalore.— PHOTO: H.S.MANJUNATH

For Jeevan (name changed), his hopes for a better life were snuffed out when the candle factory he worked in went up in smoke.

He migrated to the city around nine months ago after consecutive dry spells in his hometown of Sindhanur in Raichur district made agriculture on his marginal land unviable. Here, Jeevan took up a job at Primacy Industries, which makes and exports scented candles.

Staying in a modest house at Angaragundi nearby, his Rs. 4,688 salary ensured he and his wife eked out a living. However, around midnight on January 10, he watched as fire destroyed the factory.

After four days of uncertainty, on Tuesday, he and hundreds of his fellow workers — at least 70 per cent of the workforce is female, said a worker — gathered at the gutted factory from where plumes of scented smoke were still emanating.

Wary of the presence of presspersons, the workers were taken into the factory by company officials for the meeting, and were warned not to talk to the media after the meeting.

In fact, the workers who did talk to the correspondent before the meeting, were pulled up and questioned, said some of those who attended the meeting.

The meeting did little to assuage the anxieties of the workers.

The management told the employees they would receive January salary in full and, perhaps, half the salary of February.

Taking the hint, many workers said they would look for employment elsewhere. Moreover, a majority of the workers who talked to The Hindu said the company’s assurance of rebuilding the factory in three months was “a fallacy”.

“I do not trust them. They said they ‘may’ pay half-salaries, and I cannot pay rent or buy food with just Rs. 2,300 a month. I have submitted my resignation, and I just hope my Provident Fund and my salary for January comes before I leave,” said Jeevan.

Similarly, another worker said most assurances were made by appending “maybe” and “we’ll see” to them. “As workers we have no rights here.

Even after working for seven years, my salary has increased by only Rs. 500. When some persons tried to form a union a few years ago, they were thrown out,” he said.

V.K. Talithaya, president of the company, said they would try to get the factory running in “three or four” months.

“According to labour laws, we have to give the workers 15 days salary till the factory restarts. We will give them January’s salary and then take a decision later,” he said.

With a Fire and Emergency Services official telling The Hindu that the factory did not possess a “no-objection certificate’ from the department, Mr. Talithaya said: “When the factory was built eight years ago, there was no system of NOC. We applied after the system was put in place, but they said the certificate could not be given to existing structures.”

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