ACC-Holcim is constructing a huge new state of art Expansion Plant at Jamul, District Durg, Chhattisgarh where construction is underway. In charge of this project is Sunil Gupta. This new plant is right next to the ACC-Holcim old plant (Jamul Cement Works) where our union Pragatisheel Cement Shramik Sangh represents a majority of the 1200 strong force of contract workers. The two plants are physically separated from each other. At the new plant there is a rapid turnover of workers almost entirely brought from outside the state, they are usually housed in a separate housing unit of the company – Gharounda. The management takes ample care to see that our union has no access to the workers of the new plant.
Payment related disputes in the new plant are fairly common as contractors fail to pay regular payments. On 25th Septmber workers working in the Silo at the new expansion plant began demanding 2 months overdue pay from their contractor. Workers were agitated since even the shops which advance them provisions were refusing to do so. Also festival season is round the corner. The grievance of the workers was not resolved. Unfortunately our union could not come to know of this problem on that day.
On the next day 26th September, early in the morning the workers of the new plant again accosted their supervisor/ contractor raised the issue and this time there was a lot of tension in the air. Sunil Gupta heard this and came out of his chamber. He went to the workers and abused them angrily and asked them to get to work. An agitated worker caught hold of him. Seeing this Gupta’s security guard fired into the group of workers. One worker got bullet injury in the arm and started bleeding. Instantly the rumour spread that a worker has been shot and killed. Workers who were working at heights in the structures came down and there was a situation of fracas. In anger the workers smashed computers in the office and cars standing outside the new plant.
When the news reached the old plant, Kaladas Dehariya, one of our activists in the union office was informed. He came on a bike to the gate of the new plant to find that the injured worker was being taken in an auto to hospital. He began filming this on his mobile phone. Immediately the security people and possibly workers snatched away the phone and smashed it and began kicking and hitting him. By this time the police had arrived. Fortunately one of the policemen of Jamul Police Station recognized Kaladasji and rescued him.Then the police basically cleared out the new plant and all workers left. Some of them however did go to the Police Station and filed an FIR against Sunil Gupta and his security guard (possibly some Kutty?).
Meanwhile word had spread in the old plant. In solidarity and protest, workers of the old plant stopped work and came out and gathered at the gate of the old plant. After some time they took out a procession and had a big meeting of several hundreds of workers at Niyogi Chowk (or ACC Chowk) near the statue of Niyogiji. By this police officials of the ASP and CSP had reached the spot. Our union gave them representations demanding –
a) grievance of the workers in the new plant regarding payment of their outstanding wages be resolved immediately.
b) sunil gupta and his security guard be arrested and prosecuted.
c) a judicial enquiry be made into the incident.
This is not the first time there has been a fracas and violent incidents in the new plant over non-payment of wages. The management is squarely responsible for letting such a volatile situation develop.
Another concern of our union is that on the last occasion also the local ACC-Holcim management had tried to somehow blame our union and activists for the incident. It is very likely that they will do so again and indeed that might be one of the devious motives behind this incident.
We are in the midst of a serious negotiation with the ACC-Holcim management on the issues of redeployment / absorption / rehabilitation of the contract workers of the old plant, which requires to be clinched before the new plant is commissioned. We fear that the present incident may be utilised by the management to derail these talks.