Match manufacturers' plea to CM

CHENNAI, JULY 20. The South India Match Manufacturers' Association, Kovilpatti, has appealed to the Chief Minister, Mr. M. Karunanidhi, to arrange for visit of officials of the State and Central governments of finance, industries and labour departments to ensure implementation of provisions of the Factories Act in all match units without any distinction.

In a statement, Mr. J. Devadoss, joint secretary of the association, representing units covered by the Factories Act, said sales of hand-made matches were declining as a result of the increasing use of lighters and also substitution of cigarettes and bidis by consumers with branded `pan' products.

The industry, located in drought-prone Virudhunagar, Tuticorin and Tirunelveli districts and giving employment to thousands, was facing ``tensions'' as a result of competition between units covered by the Factories Act and those not covered by the Act (by virtue of smaller number of workers or non-use of electricity).

Match units covered by the Act had to pay statutory minimum wages, ESI (Employees' State Insurance) contribution, gratuity, labour welfare fund and group insurance premium of Rs. 50,000 per head. As a result, the wage cost of the units exceeded that of units not covered by the Factories Act by 43 per cent, seriously eroding their competitiveness.

Mr. Devadoss said women workers were opposed to deduction of employees' contribution towards the ESI since they found it difficult to derive benefit from the scheme as a result of the location of ESI medical facilities far from their own villages/hamlets. Similarly, they were not in favour of deduction of Provident Fund contribution since they tended to work only for a few years before marriage and it was a problem for them in getting back the money accumulated during the short period.

As a result, the strength of workers in units covered by the Factories Act in the match industry as a whole declined from 82 per cent in 1970 to 41 per cent at present, Mr. Devadoss said.

Mr. Devadoss suggested levy of safeguard duty on import of matches and export of the entire production of machine-made matches from large industry to save the employment-oriented industry in the southern districts of Tamil Nadu.