CHENNAI: As the country is all set to observe its Republic day as a national holiday, the workmen in many factories across the city are still forced to work without adequate benefits over the years.
This practice has been going on over the years at a time when the Tamil Nadu Industrial Establishments (National and Festival Holidays) Act 1958 provides for the grant of National festival holidays to persons employed in industrial establishments across the State.
V. Gopalakrishnan, an employee in a factory in the city, says his employer forced him to work on last Republic day and the same is going to happen this year as well. ‘Though workmen are forced to work on holidays, we don’t get any additional benefit. In fact, the company management provides us only basic salary on holiday work instead of overtime wage. I think it is clear exploitation. So I did take up the matter with the labour department last year. But they did not come up with any remedy to the issue’, he said.
The Act mentions that “every employee shall be allowed in each calendar year a holiday on January 26 (Republic Day), May 1 (May Day), August 15 (Independence Day) and October 2 (Gandhi Jayanthi) and five other holidays for such festivals”.
P. Vijayakumar, a trade union leader, termed the labour department as toothless when he was asked about the non-implementation of the Act. He said that their union had taken up the matter with the labour department several times. But they were taking a position that simply emboldened the management. Now both the labour department and management rake up the Covid-19 and its consequences for justifying this exploitation. “Nevertheless, we will raise the matter in the court of law”, he said.
K.E. Raghunathan, former president, All India Manufacturer’s Organisation (AIMO), said that these issues should be amicably resolved between the employer and employees. “If the employees work on holidays, they should be adequately compensated. Today the manufacturers are facing a lot of challenges due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Many companies ask their employees to work on holiday as they want to ensure timely production and supply. In that context, the employees and employees should understand each others problems and strike a compromise”, he said.
The Tamil Nadu Labour Department had earlier initiated action against employers for denying employees holiday on Gandhi Jayanthi. A special task force, headed by the Assistant Commissioners of Labour (Enforcement) in each district, had conducted special inspections on the Gandhi Jayanthi Day under the Tamil Nadu Industrial Establishment (National, Festival and Special Holidays) Act.
Though Deccan Chronicle tried to get in touch with Labour Department officials regarding whether they would initiate the same kind of action on this Republic day, none of them was available for comment.