Zydus Workers on a Path of Struggle in Uttarakhand Against Illegal Closure and Retrenchment

Zydus Workers on a Path of Struggle in Uttarakhand

Against Illegal Closure and Retrenchment

  • KK Bora

Hundreds of workers of Zydus under the banner of Zydus Wellness Employees Union, affiliated to AICCTU, have been protesting for more than 220 days against the illegal lockout of the company's production facility at Sitarganj in Uttarakhand.

Zydus Wellness is an Indian consumer goods company which produces energy products like Glucon-D, Sugar Free, Complan and Nycil. The unit was closed by the company in the name of 'manufacturing and supply chain network optimisation exercise', throwing out around 1200 workers on the streets.

Robbing Workers of Their Jobs and Wages:

Real Design of Zydus Closure

The plant currently owned by Zydus Products Ltd. was set up in 2009. Initially, the plant was owned by the multi-national corporation Heinz. Later in 2019, the plant was taken over by Zydus.

The workers of Zydus plant in Sitarganj formed the union in 2015 under the banner of AICCTU. The union has successfully secured several rights of workers through a protracted process of collective bargaining with the Zydus management. The workers, with a service of more than 13 years, were getting a salary of Rs 40,000 per month. This was a significant advancement in securing decent wages for the workers.

The company suddenly declared closure of the plant from 18th June 2022 by displaying a notice on the gate of the plant on 17th June, 2022. The workers had no clue of this sudden announcement which was tantamount to devastation of their life and future. The workers of the night shift were gathering at the gate when the notice of closure was being pasted. 

The management personnel suddenly disappeared after declaring the plant closed. It is to be noted that more than 150 permanent workers of the plant were not paid their wages for three months at the time of closure.

The closure declared by the Zydus management was a complete violation of several provisions applicable labour laws. Neither the mandatory permission for closure was sought from the State Government nor the mandatory notice was issued to the union or workers, in advance, about the closure. An advance notice period of three months is a mandatory provision in Uttarakhand, for units employing more than 300 workers.  A written permission from the state government is mandatory for plants employing more than 1000 workers.

The justification for closure given by the Zydus management was baseless and false. The raw material for the production was sourced from the local market. Hence, the increase in transport cost is no basis for closure. In fact, the plant at Sitarganj was producing volumes much higher than similar plants in Ahmedabad, Silchar and Aligarh. So, it is very clear that the closure was resorted to with some ulterior motive. The Zydus management wanted to get rid of permanent workers to reduce the wage cost and to earn super profit by contractualising the entire workforce and by denying them even basic rights. It is the greedy profit seeking motive of the company which is to be primarily blamed for the illegal closure.

The Vibrant Struggle of the Zydus Workers

The workers of Zydus plant have been fighting a long battle against the illegal closure amounting to retrenchment. The workers are on a struggle path in the main gate, under the union flag mast, since the day of declaration of the closure. The longdrawn protest is being carried on with lot of determination, in an organized manner, employing novel forms and soliciting solidarity and mutual cooperation among workers.

The state government is deliberately ignoring the demands of the struggling workers of Zydus. Still, the struggle has been successful in gaining attention and support of vast sections of the society.

The High Court had earlier pronounced the closure as illegal. But the Uttarakhand state government led by BJP refused to act on the said order for a long time. After several rounds of protests, the state government also finally declared the closure as illegal on 30th November. Still, The BJP led Uttarakhand government continued to betray 1200 workers by deliberately delaying any action against the company and also to facilitate the management to go for an appeal.

The union is fighting the illegal closure and retrenchment tooth and nail. Several massive mobilisations were organised by the union at different parts of the city. The struggle of the Zydus workers will only gain strength in every step. The Union is determined to win the battle against the illegal closure and retrenchment.