Major spice oil exporter threatens to shut Kerala operations following troubles by CPM affiliated trade union

Synthite Industries Limited which is considered one of the largest spice oil and oleoresins exporter in the world has threatened to shift its operations out of Kerala rendering its main unit near Kochi getting potentially locked down. The company accounts for fulfilling about 40-50% of the world’s requirement of spice oils and oleoresins which are used by food, flavour and fragrance industries.

As reported, Synthite which is called the world’s largest value-added spices company has threatened to pull out of Kerala over a labour strike by part of its employees. This strike is reported to have been supported by CPM affiliated trade union CITU. This strike has meant that the operations of the company were disrupted for the first time in 46 years. In total, the company employs about 2400 people.

As per Managing Director Viju Jacob, the protest stems from inter-state employee transfer, which as per him has been a long-standing policy of the company. Jacob has claimed that if the situation isn’t resolved, the company would be forced to move its operations to its existing facilities in the other states. He has claimed that it won’t be a difficult task for the company and pointed out Chandrababu Naidu’s open invitation to invest in Andhra. This relocation if it happens, is pitted to impact about 600 families and affect Kerala’s revenue.

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The trouble in company’s Kerala unit seems to have begun in December last year when CITU became the first trade union to register with the company. This was done against the wishes of 75% of the employees and had resulted in Synthite transferring seven employees who belonged to the trade union.

This current strike too has been opposed to by some of the employees who took out a rally against it.

The Synthie episode incidentally isn’t the only time communist ruled states in India have been crippled by trade unions.

Famously in 2008, work at the Dunlop factory in West Bengal’s Sahagunj was suspended following a failure in finding a consensus with the labour unions even after prolonged discussions – over the management’s plan to bring in a pay-cut in light of the global financial crisis. The pay cut wasn’t accepted by the unions, and workers were rendered fully unpaid for the total duration of the suspension owing to the company’s “no work no pay” policy.

Besides companies, trade unions are also known to cripple both the communist-ruled states and individual citizens.

Back in 2016 Tripura was completely crippled as a result of an all-India strike called by trade unions. Despite the strike being nationwide, a similar impact wasn’t visible in other northeastern states.

Coming to individual citizens, it was observed in 2015 that an American artist in Kochi was asked to pay Rs 10,000 by trade union labourers for merely moving six boxes by about 10 feet to load them into a truck. Angered by the same, the artist was recorded destroying some of his work in protest.


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