India Cements Signs Wage Pact With Trade Unions Amid Industry-Wide Stalemate

Breaking away from the past, the N Srinivasan-headed The India Cements Ltd. has independently chosen to sign a wage pact with its unions.

“For the last 30 years, I have been negotiating on behalf of the cement industry with all the central trade unions,” Srinivasan, vice chairman and managing director at the southern cement maker, said in a statement. “As reaching a consensus is taking time, we have now entered into the 12(3) settlement with our unions for the benefit of employees in all our plants.”

Since 1992, the cement sector has negotiated a common industry wage agreement. India Cements’ decision may force peers to go for similar agreements. While central trade unions may not like this, the move also risks triggering wage disparity in the industry. And in the current cost-push inflation, the industry could be better off without that. 

The industry is due for a fresh wage arrangement as the existing accord expires in April. Srinivasan had been spearheading negotiations with the central unions on behalf of the cement industry, and concluded seven pacts till 2018.

The last round of industry-wide talks was held some time ago in Chennai. But the discussions remained inconclusive. The unions—six in all—insisted that the issue of temporary workers be resolved first before deliberating on a fresh wage pact.

A significant portion of the workers in the industry are on contract, according to Nishit Chaudhary, who is the convenor of the cement co-ordination committee. Similar pay for similar jobs is what the unions are demanding, irrespective of the permanent or temporary tag, he said.

Rising cost pressures and demand instability are giving a new dimension to the industrial relation in the industry.

India Cements’ wage pact, however, has taken the central unions by surprise. They would take stock of the situation individually in their respective forums and decide on a collective action for the way forward, Chaudhary said, over the phone. He indicated that the unions could move the Central Labour Commissioner for a resolution to the issue.

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