Thrissur's Kalyan Sarees shuts down a unit citing recession; employees allege vendetta.

 6 firebrand women protest Thrissur Kalyan Sarees unit closure management claims recession
news Rights of Employees Wednesday, April 26, 2017 - 15:59

For the past 8 days, a group of 6 women has been protesting outside the showroom of popular retail chain Kalyan Sarees in Thrissur’s Ashwini Junction.

On April 8th, they were handed over a notice by Kalyan Sarees declaring that the company was going ahead with its decision to close its ‘depot’ department owing to recession.

The company sent a notice along with a court order that vacated a stay on terminating the services of these women. Alphonsa Johnson, Maya Devi, Preethimol, Beena Sojan, Rajini Dasan and Devi Ravi however allege that recession was not the real reason behind their termination; the company was simply taking revenge.

Five of these women (except Preethimol) led a protest against the company in 2014, demanding better wages and amenities. Their protest had forced Kalyan Sarees to increase salaries of employees in its showrooms from Rs 4000- 5000 to Rs 7000-8,000.

But the women who led the protest were transferred from the showroom to different places. This led to a second protest in January 2015 that went on for months. When the women did not relent and refused to be transferred to other districts, Kalyan moved them to a different division called ‘depot’ that largely does clerical work. Now, the retail major has shut down the depot.

“In March 2017, we were told that the depot will be shut down. We went to the High Court. A single judge bench gave a stay on the company’s move. They then approached a two judge bench. Though the contract given to us after our struggle in 2015 clearly said that the company will accommodate us in new divisions, if this division was ever to shut down, they altered that clause and went to the court,” alleges Alphonsa Johnson.

These women with the help of the AITUC (All India Trade Union Congress) have also approached the court and Labour Commissioner’s office.

"A complaint was given to the District Labour officer, but the Kalyan management never sent a representative to any of the meetings called by the management,” alleges AITUC State Secretary AM Rajan.

Alphonsa alleges that this is a clear case of vendetta. “Five of us were part of the protests in 2014 and 2015. It was our protest that forced Kalyan to pay better wages. Preethimol was not part of our protest then, but she had supported us. This is the reason why she too was transferred to the depot,” she said.

Kalyan Sarees, however, says that with the two judge bench vacating the stay, they had every right to close the department.

“We don’t have the resources to run that unit and need to shut it down. The court has been convinced about our reasons,” said TS Ramachandran, Managing Partner, Kalyan Sarees.

When asked about allegations that the company was being vengeful, he said, "We are giving minimum wages to all our employees. We have around 2,000 people and no one has complaints. Their transfer in 2015 was also legal, but they did not accept it,” he said.

Ramachandran also refuted the accusation that they had failed to appear at meetings called by the labour department. “I went for one of the meetings, they didn’t turn up,” he said.

Alphonsa says the company’s decision in March 2017 to shut down the depot was made following their reminder that salaries had to be increased. “We reminded the management that our salaries had to be made Rs 9,700 per month. This was agreed upon during the previous strike. But as soon as we said this, they said they are shutting the depot down”.

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