As part of the ongoing strike the employees of the four cooperative sugarmills staged agitation in front of the Collectorates at Cuddalore and Villupuram on Monday.

Their primary demand is revision of wages on par with the government employees.

M.Sekar of the All India Trade Union Congress told The Hindu that the normally the wage settlement in sugarmills was based on the pattern evolved by the Sugar Board in consultation with the South Indian Sugarmills Association (SISMA).

This wage formula would be applicable to the three categories of sugarmills, including those in the public sector, private sector and the cooperative sector. The last wage settlement for the cooperative sugarmills was effected five years ago.

Since, the cooperative sugarmills were not economically sound, owing to political interference, the SISMA had not opted to frame any wage policy for the cooperative sector. Therefore, the incumbent All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam government had passed an order for the continuation of the same wages. Since it was not acceptable, about 6,000 employees of the 17 cooperative sugarmills in the State had gone on strike ever since April 4.

Their demands were that while the cooperative cotton mills employees were given wage parity with the government employees why not the same yardstick be applied to that of the cooperative sugarmills. To facilitate this they demanded the scrapping of the recent government order that preferred the continuation of the wags as per the “already lapsed settlement.”

S.Velmurugan of the Labour Progressive Front of the MRK Cooperative Sugarmill said that in the last round of tripartite talks held in Chennai on April 11 it was suggested that the cooperative sugarmill managements were ready to offer SISMA wages or in other words as that of the private sugarmills, sans incentives.

The wages thus offered would be only marginally higher than what was being given now. Moreover, the private sugarmills were extending other benefits such as good education to the wards of the employees in their schools and also bonus amounting to Rs 45,000.

Rejecting the offer, the trade unions had decided to intensify the strike. On April 24, the employees, along with their family members, would proceed to Chennai and stage hunger strike there in support of their demands.