Like the two tuskers sizing each other up in its logo, the management of gold-financing giant Muthoot Finance and its employees union have been in a stand-off for over a month in Kerala. Since August 20, the Muthoot Finance Employees Union (MFEU) has been on a state-wide strike against “anti-labour practices” such as unfair salary structure, lack of increments, excessive pay-docking, cuts in incentives, punitive transfers and arbitrary suspensions. More than 300 branches remain shuttered—over half the presence of non-banking financial companies in Kerala. Muthoot’s management and a section of the employees claim, however, that “vested interests” are preventing a majority of its roughly 3,000-strong workforce in the state from working. The company has hit back by closing down some 45 branches citing “non- performance”. It has even threatened to wind up all operations in its home state.
Head-load workers stand in solidarity with white-collar workers, raising the battle cries of working-class struggle, and the police have been roped in since the Kerala High Court’s order to remove impediments to work. Protesters say the reluctance of the country’s largest gold-funding corporate (in terms of loan portfolio) to provide a fair wage is pathetic.