Although Diwali is just a week away, the festive spirit is manifestly lacking in textile town as shopping districts remain scantily populated and fire cracker shops almost absent from the cityscape. The despair among shopkeepers and businessmen here is obvious in the fact that most, if not all, firms have either reduced their Diwali Bonus amount or have totally abstained from providing any bonus at all.
“Every year, most middle class families count on the Diwali season to settle pending dues and purchase new clothing and crackers for their families. It is the only time of the year when they have surplus cash at hand. But, this year it seems like we are going to have a dull Diwali, thanks to a plethora of reasons primary among them being long hours of power cuts,” said former mill worker and septuagenarian Elangovan from Flower Market area. He says that he has not seen such a dull Diwali over the last sixty years or so.
On an average, most small scale industries pay one month’s salary as bonus to their employees. “But, this year we have been severely crippled by the power crisis. Every day, I spend atleast Rs. 1000/- for diesel to operate my unit,” says Murugan, a small time industrialist from Vadavalli. “This amount goes from the meager profit that I make. With such being the situation, I have been able to pay only half month’s salary as bonus this year. Even that money has been borrowed at a huge interest rate,” he says.
While state government employees and skilled workers in larger textile mills and firms still hope for a bonus announcement, the small industry owners seem to the worst affect.
President of the Kovai Pump Manufacturer’s Association K. Maniraj said that with twelve hour power cuts having become the order of the day, most small manufacturer’s are even struggling to make ends meet.
“Atleast 60% of our orders have been lost over the last six months due to the power cuts. With barely four pieces getting produced where 10 are possible, most small businessmen prefer to close their units and move to other businesses. Several of our workers in this industry have resorted to painting, construction work that do not depend on power,” Maniraj says. “With such a situation, it is almost impossible to give bonus to existing staff. Even banks are not giving us over draft facilities anymore.”
CITU district secretary S. Arumugam said that bonus talks with industrial heads have been only disappointing this year. “After a lot of struggle, we barely manage to come to an agreement with managements to give a bonus amount that is much lesser than previous years. Managements cite escalated costs as the reason behind delaying the bonus. Some companies have even split the bonus amount and are paying in two instalments,” he says.