Pettai cooperative spinning mill to be closed?

TIRUNELVELI, MARCH 3 . The State Government has apparently decided to wind up both units of the Co-operative Spinning Mills at Pettai near here as the administration has asked its permanent employees to submit voluntary retirement proposals on or before March 15.

However, no employee has so far filed any voluntary retirement proposal since they have decided to wait until the government issues order on closure.

Established in 1958 by late K. Kamaraj when he was Chief Minister, the mill now has a workforce of 600 permanent employees, 40 administrative staff and 200 casual labourers. Though the mill, with 50,080 spindles, was said to be making profit till early 90s, it started incurring huge loss, as the government was not reportedly prepared to upgrade the machinery on a par with private mills in various parts of the State.

Because of the accumulated losses over the years, the administration could not pay salaries to its employees for the past eight months, leading to a strike by the workers. The employees, affiliated to trade unions of Opposition parties, even opened a gruel centre on the premises of the mill in July last year, forcing the administration to pay salary for June 2003.

While the salary for the entire workforce was put on hold, the administration was not even able to pay electricity bill and hence, the Tamil Nadu Electricity Board disconnected power supply on February 28.

The administration today pasted an announcement on the gate, asking the employees to file their voluntary retirement proposals on or before March 15.

"While about 850 families, which are totally relying upon this mill, are at a crossroads, the machineries of the mill worth several crores have started degenerating, as no maintenance has been done for the past several months. The closure of the mill will certainly have an adverse impact directly on the economy of Tirunelveli, which once provided job opportunities for the people who migrated from Ramanathapuram due to famine. Now, the heads of these distressed families have to search for some greener pastures in other districts to save their family members," said an AITUC functionary.

The Communist parties have decided to make it a poll issue during the Parliamentary elections and planned to list the reasons, which led to the closure of the mill.