The ailing Tuticorin Alkali Chemicals and Fertilizers Limited was closed in the early hours on Thursday.
The company began production of soda ash, ammonium choride and other chemicals in 1982. Agitated over the abrupt closure of the company, employees affiliated to TAC Union raised slogans against the management.
M. Dorai, general secretary, TAC Employees’ Union, said the future of more than 200 workers and over 500 contract labourers would remain bleak. Besides, more than 1,000 people were relying on TAC indirectly, he said. A series of protests had been organised by employees in the recent past over non-payment of salaries due to them in May. They urged the State government to take over the company and revive its operations.
Referring to the lock-out notice, Mr. Dorai said the entire plant was closed since March 1 for want of basic raw material Co2, which was solely supplied by SPIC – (Southern Petrochemical Industries Corporation) that could not supply Co2 for want of its raw material naphtha. Due to the non-availability of raw material, TAC plant could not continue its manufacturing operations since March 1. Hence, the union had insisted that the government set up a new Co2 plant to resume production at TAC, he said.
“The TAC has already been declared a sick industry and facing acute financial crunch. Accumulated loss of the company is more than 50 per cent of its net worth. Its current accumulated loss is about Rs. 145 crore. Though production came to a halt from March, the company managed to pay salaries to workmen numbering 163 for March and April, 2013. Despite the difficult situation, the company proposed to the employees’ union to pay 50 per cent of remuneration to the workers for May. But it did not materialise,” he said.
The agitated workers had recently gheraoed high-ranking officers on the company premises and sought resumption of operations and their salaries. The prevailing situation was also represented to Labour Minister Pachaimal on Sunday when he appealed to the administrators to pay the pending salaries to workers, initially, he said. When contacted, Deputy Commissioner of Labour, Tirunelveli Region, S. Thangappan, said that on the outcome of talks held between the company management and workers Wednesday evening, ensured that full salaries be credited into workers’ bank accounts on June 29. Despite agreeing to pay salaries, the company was locked out, abruptly. Procedurally, any company should issue notice six weeks before ‘lock out’ and he termed the abrupt closure an “illegal operation.”
Mr. Thangappan said that Collector Ashish Kumar scheduled a meeting on Thursday evening to avert any law and order issue.