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Cement Industry Wage Settlement Talks Stuck As Labour Leaders Demand ‘Similar Pay For Similar Jobs’

Time was when industry wage settlements were watched with quite an expectation from stakeholders across the canvass. Much water has flowed under the bridge since then. The economic context may have transformed significantly post the liberalisation. But this industry has been a role model in putting in place a consensual wage ecosystem. The cement industry has seen eight such settlements in the past. A little trip down memory lane will reveal how N Srinivasan, MD & Vice-Chairman of The India Cements Ltd, has been a fulcrum in hammering out an amicable wage accord. The industry is due for a fresh wage arrangement following the expiry of the accord in April this year. Indeed, the talks were held for two days some time ago in Chennai. But the discussions remained inconclusive. This time around, the unions – six in all – are insisting that the issue of temporary workers be resolved first before deliberating on a fresh wage pact. Only 18% of the workforce in the cement industry is permanent employees. The rest are temporary workers. Given this, the unions are worried over this increasing trend in the industry. Similar pay for similar jobs is what the unions are demanding now irrespective of the permanent or temporary tag attached to a workman. Rising cost pressures and demand instability are giving a new dimension to the IR (industrial relation) scene in the cement industry, it appears.