Supply of Aavin milk to several parts of south Chennai was disrupted on Monday after contract workers did not turn up for work on Sunday night at the Sholinganallur dairy.
Milk to department stores, milk shops and non-card consumers reached only post 8 a.m., depriving many consumers of their early morning cuppa. The dairy supplies 5.5 lakh litres of milk daily and of this, 3 lakh litres goes to cardholders.
Divya, a homemaker of Velachery, said her usual supplier delivered milk only by 9 a.m. "Our vendor informed us on the WhatsApp group that milk supply would be delayed. Luckily, I always keep a packet of milk from the previous day," she said.
Murugesan, a dealer in the area, said that since many of his customers had left for office, he was left with 36 litres of unsold milk. "I will make curds and then churn them into buttermilk to sell in this heat," he said.
Murugan, a dealer in Perungudi, said milk arrival was so delayed that he just cancelled supplies to homes. "People would have purchased milk from nearby stores. We hope that the absenteeism among workers is sorted out and things come back to normalcy," he said.
AITUC's Aavin union vice-president R. Palayan said that the Sholinganallur dairy depended solely on contract workers. They were not being paid proper wages by the contractor. "The labour force should ideally be a mix of permanent staff and contract workers so that the permanent staff will step in if there is any such issue. The Aavin management is yet to appoint men even in the available openings, including on compassionate grounds," he said.
S.A. Ponnusamy, Tamil Nadu Milk Retailers’ Employees Welfare Association, said that milk left the dairy farm only by 8 a.m. “In many places, milk had been left at the pick up points since the vendors had left by then. Only a section of milk wholesalers, who had workers at hand lifted milk on time. Labour force related issues have been plaguing Aavin for over a year now. Coupled with a reduction in milk procurement, such labour issues only prove that the system had collapsed and that the government needs to step in quickly and allow Aavin to increase procurement price and thereby selling price,” he said.
Official sources in Aavin said there was only a slight delay in supplies and that there was no issue as far as a milk availability was concerned. The labour issue was one that happened very suddenly and had been sorted out now, the official said.