Kerala CITU workers barge into shop, stop business and threaten owner

The shop owner employed workers, other than those from the CITU, to load and unload cargo, which irked the union.
CITU workers blocking a tiles showroom in Kerala
CITU workers blocking a tiles showroom in Kerala
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Jose Abraham has been running a ceramics showroom at Vennikulam in Kerala’s Pathanamthitta district since 2003. On Saturday, January 8, a group of CITU workers, including men and women, barged into his shop, tried to manhandle his son Justin Jose, destroyed Justin’s phone and threatened to stop the business. The workers were carrying the CPI(M) flag. CITU is the union affiliated to the CPI(M), which leads the ruling coalition – Left Democratic Front – in Kerala.

The showroom, Aiswarya Ceramics, is functioning on the first floor while the storage facility is on the ground floor. The workers barged into the showroom directly around 10 am. The highhandedness is allegedly the result of Jose gaining an order from the High Court in October last year allowing him to use his own employees to load and unload the materials for his shop. These jobs were usually done by CITU workers. Since the end of December, Jose began employing his workers for the loading and unloading works.

The HC, in its order dated October 29, 2021, said that the right of an owner to engage his own permanent employees as head load workers under the Kerala Headload Workers Rules, 1981 is subject to only one requirement – the employees must be registered as head load workers. Jose had obtained registration from the Labour Department for his workers for the loading and unloading work.

The CITU workers, apparently irked by this, barged into the shop on Saturday and even tried to destroy tiles in the shop. “They continued doing this for half-an-hour. We then called up the police. The police came and stopped them from destroying things. But then they began blockading the shop and sent away the customers till evening. They used abusive language, threatened to kill me and my son, and stopped us from running the business. Jini Mathew, Pathanamthitta district panchayat member of the CPI(M), also threatened us,” Jose told TNM.

The police, however, didn’t stop the workers from laying siege to the shop. “What I feel is that the police had some pressure and so they didn’t act. The police told us that it was a protest and cannot be prevented,” Jose added.

He said that the reason for him to move the court was that the CITU workers are not available for work whenever required. “They would work from 9-5 only. If a customer comes to the shop at 5 pm, his purchase will end at 6 pm only. But the CITU workers would hesitate to work at 6 pm saying their work hours are over. But we can’t afford that as it would affect our business,” he said.

The Circle Inspector of Pullad Police Station, owing to objections from the CITU workers, summoned both the parties to the station on Friday, January 7. “But reading the court order, the officer said that police won’t be intervening in the matter,” Jose said.

The Mallappally Additional Labour Officer has now convened a meeting with both parties on Monday to discuss the issue.

“The demand of the CITU workers is to accommodate them too in the work,” Anoop, Sub Inspector of Pullad Police Station, told TNM.

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