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Talks fail; 2,700 contract workers court arrest

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BOOSTING THEIR MORALE: Senior CPI leader R. Nallakannu addressing NLC contract labourers at Neyveli on Friday.
BOOSTING THEIR MORALE: Senior CPI leader R. Nallakannu addressing NLC contract labourers at Neyveli on Friday.

Special Correspondent

NEYVELI: On the seventh day of their agitation on Friday, 2,700 contract labourers, including 35 women, of the Neyveli Lignite Corporation courted arrest.

The conciliatory talks held on the NLC premises for the past two days, in the presence of Collector Rajendra Ratnoo, Superintendent of Police Pradip Kumar, Deputy Chief Labour Commissioner Mathew, Regional Labour Commissioner Murali and Assistant Labour Commissioner Dharmaraj, ended abruptly.

As the stalemate continued, Labour Department officials left for Chennai on Thursday night.

R. Nallakannu, a veteran leader of the Communist Party of India, addressed the labourers Friday.

Trade union sources told The Hindu that the management had pleaded its inability to prepare the seniority list of contract labourers, including the Incoserve employees, because it did not have the details. Hence, it passed on the responsibility to the All-India Trade Union Congress and its affiliate, Jeeva Contract Labourers’ Union, that spearhead the strike.

However, the trade unions maintained that there was no point in preparing the list, arguing that if the regular vacancies were to be filled on the basis of seniority, several labourers would never get their turn.

The unions accused the management of violating the labour laws on two counts: as a principal player, it failed to keep the list of contract labourers and, above all, it neglected the proviso that the services of those had served for 240 days should be regularised. In the absence of an official list, they said, only the entry passes and wage bills of the contractors would have to be relied upon, but these were hard to come by.

Meanwhile, despite the strike, the NLC generated 2,000 MW of electricity on Friday. This was possible because of the extensive mechanisation of the mining operation and favourable weather conditions.

Even a spell of rain would choke the conveyor belts transporting lignite to the power plants.

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