The story of Bombay Dyeing’s
Ranjangaon factory is not unique, and it is not complete, yet it is important.
It is important because it represents a trend that is all too common –
something like a Bollywood ‘formula’ movie plot.
The difference is that in a
Bollywood ‘formula’ movie, all parties, like financiers, director, actors go
smiling to the bank and obviously to home, in Bombay Dyeing type ‘industrial
and real estate formula’ stories only the owners and shareholders go smiling
and singing to the bank and home. Others actors in the story can only curse their
Bombay Dyeing reportedly
purchased 135 acres of land at Ranjangaon to set up [some say to shift Mumbai
factory] a new factory. Some workers from Mumbai also moved to this new factory
which has four departments: Bleaching, Dyeing, Printing and Finishing. The
factory is on an area of 35 acres, and the rest is reportedly unutilised.
After setting up the factory the
production started in 2008. Obviously the first step was to recruit workers.
But the workers were all employed through contractors – so all were contract
employees. Does that sound familiar? Yes, that strategy is very common now.
But nobody was made permanent! So
there was an agitation. And some became permanent. This in their lingo is the
‘first batch.’ The workers were working there for over two years in the hope
that they will be absorbed in permanent service.
Then another agitation followed
after a long wait of two years be other workers. They were also contract workers
working in manufacturing for a long time. They sought intervention of local MP
Mr Adhalrao Patil. He belongs to Shiv Sena. It must have been difficult not to
compromise. So in 2011 a group of 35 workers were absorbed in permanent
And the identical story with
different players followed in 2012.
But there was a twist in the
All were recruited as Trainees
for a period of one year and then put on probation for six months. So
essentially you keep them on tenterhooks, right? Insecurity keeps the workers
in check! The well accepted assumption is that workers must be made to feel
insecure if you wish to control them. A corollary: Permanency makes a worker do
things a normal human being will not do. Right? Even for getting identity cards
the workers had to resort to stoppage of work, because no I-Card was issued nor
was the request to issue one was quickly worked accepted!
In 2012 Bombay Dyeing had 160
permanent workers and over 600 contract workers. Then the company discovered
that it is cheaper to get the job done by outsourcing rather than making it
themselves. So reportedly they are getting it done elsewhere. The next step was
to reduce cost so all contract workers have been removed, and two departments
have been closed down – two are working. Reportedly fifty out of 150 staff is
removed and the murmur in the company is that all will go by June end.
Why? Because the plant will close
down by March end.
As a forerunner to closure, the
employees were sent on paid leave from Jan 3 to 12. During this period many
prospective buyers are reported to have visited this plant. Large tract of land
makes it immensely attractive, for both, buyers and sellers.
People who joined Bombay Dyeing
at various levels did not imagine that the plant will get closed down in merely
six years. That not only destroys their dreams but also brings in a deep
feeling of regret for having given up a job elsewhere to be employed in what
they thought would have been a long term secure employment.
Many workers in this area near
Ranjangaon usually live in joint families. They have land and agricultural
income. That’s the
only ‘Social Security’ for them, but no man likes to be unemployed and live on
others’, that is to say brother’s income.
The Bombay Dyeing story brings
forth many issues: The issue of social security for workers, the issue of
failure to implement existing laws – that failure ‘allowed’ the company to
manage for a long time by engaging only contract labour, the practice of
engaging a person as a contract labour, then engaging him as a trainee, and
then as a probationer – thereby keeping the sword of unemployment hanging all
for about 42 months, closing down an establishment without payment of adequate
compensation to employees, and generally neither complying with the laws nor
following any good values as an employer. Perhaps the readers will find many
With Governments of many states
amending laws to make it easy for employers who directly engage less than 300
workers [notwithstanding the fact that they employ hundreds of contract labour
on the same jobs], will we hear more of such stories? Industry experts say
The textile industry in Mumbai
set a practice of insidious people practices after the textile strike in the
eighties – it is sad that it is now a tradition!
Vivek S Patwardhan
"What you leave
behind is not what is engraved in stone monuments, but what is woven into the
lives of others."
Labels: Bombay Dyeing, Closure, Contract Labour, Real estate sale, Retrenchment