Lobourers working at the Arihant Spinning Mill in Malerkotla city of Punjab are holding a protest against the company's excessive long working hours and salary cut due to Covid-19.

The tension against the company's management has been simmering since Sunday night as hundreds of migrant workers complained about the alleged exploitation at the mill.

Workers allege long working hours, pay cut

Workers complained that they had been kept inside the factory for two months now and are forced to work 12 to 16 hours a day. They also complained that not only their salaries were cut but they were also made to buy essential services items from the canteen inside the factory at inflated prices.

"We are forced to work 12-16 hours but they are paying more to people sitting outside the mill doing nothing. We are charged more money for grocery items at the factory mill," one of the labourers at the site said.

Labourers, cops injured during lathi charge 

On Monday, when the workers had staged the first protest against the company's management, there were reports of stone pelting in which Malerkotla Sub-Divisional Magistrate (SDM) Vikramjeet Singh Panthey and Deputy Superintendent of Police Sumit Sood got injured. Some workers including women were also injured during the lathi-charge ordered to control the agitation.

Malerkotla mill labourers protest
One of the labourers who got injured during the lathicharge at the mill.Courtesy: Sandeep Singh via Twitter

One of the disgruntled workers had told a media outlet that "they were not allowed to step out of mill premises even when they are unwell. And if they would still go out, somehow, the factory officials would deduct their salaries."

Company denies allegations

The company's management, however, denied any such allegations.

Mill's director, Neeraj Jain, said that there has been no salary cut for workers and labourers have been paid as per their working hours.

"We have paid salaries for all employees as per their working hours. We have never received any complaint about overcharging at the canteen. Still, if they have any problems, we can sort these out after talks" he told news website Sabrangindia.

The parent company of the Arihant Mill, Vardhaman Textiles, on Tuesday, released a statement saying that "a handful of worker... created the unrest on Monday when they were denied wages for the period they had absented and did not come for work."

"The grievance came from a handful of workers who had been absent for more than 2 days and some of them even for 15-17 days on the ground that they have got lesser wages even though it is purely on account of neglect on their part," as per the statement from the company.

Malerkotla mill labourers protest

Ever since the lockdown was announced on March 25 and factories were asked to suspend production activities, thousands of migrant workers were left in the lurch. In the case of Arihant Mill, around 1350 migrant workers were staying inside the factory complex and were called to work when local administration gave a permit to restart the factory on April 11. During all this period the migrant workers were kept inside the mill.