The contract employees of Visvesvaraya Iron and Steel Plant (VISP), a subsidiary of Steel Authority of India Limited (SAIL), at Bhadravathi in Shivamogga district – have begun an indefinite protest opposing the SAIL’s move to close the plant. Around 1,340 employees working on contract basis are worried of losing their jobs following the recent decision to close the unit citing losses.
The workers began the protest on January 19 soon after they learnt about the SAIL’s decision. The board of directors of the authority in the last meeting resolved to close the unit in Bhadravathi. The same has been recommended to the Ministry of Steel. Senior officers working in the plant conveyed the decision to the workers orally, prompting them to launch the protest.
H. G. Suresh, president of contract workers’ association, told The Hindu that the protest would continue until the elected representatives assured the workers that they would continue efforts to revive the factory. “The VISL, set up by the Mysore rulers more than 100 years ago, was once the best iron production unit in the country. It offered jobs to thousands of people. However, in the recent years, it suffered losses as there was no fresh investment to improve production,” he said.
No alternative industry
After the SAIL took over the plant, it did not invest in modern machinery. “Without investing money to improve its functioning, the SAIL has concluded that it is a loss-making unit. We have approached elected representatives including Shivamogga Lok Sabha member B. Y. Raghavendra to appeal to the ministers concerned and make sincere efforts to retain the industry,” he said.
Further, he said the contract employees had been working in the unit for several years. They get salaries depending on their grades — unskilled, semi-skilled and skilled. “The maximum pay workers get is around ₹22,000. If we lose our job, we will be driven to the streets. There is no alternative industry nearby which can accommodate these many number of workers,” he said.
Besides 50 officers, as many as 211 permanent employees and 1,340 contract workers work at the plant. The production has been scaled down substantially in the recent years.