Sandalwood workers still waiting to get their bonuses, demands inquiry

Bangalore Karnataka Top Story

A  Right to Information (RTI) filed by Karnataka Soaps and Detergents Limited (KSDL) highlights the gaps in funds, and the workers’ salaries.

By Nitika K, Souptik Datta

Bengaluru: Raju has been working at the Mysore Sandal Soap Factory for the last 25 years. But today his salary is only Rs. 30,000, and he does not get the government benefits, including a bonus for the last five years. “And there are so many excess workers here working on contract,” he added.

KSDL Employees Union, on Thursday, urged the state government to launch an investigation into Mysore Sandal Soap Factory management for delayed salaries of the sandalwood workers and unpaid bonuses.

Rajesh, a secretary from Trade Union Coordination Centre (TUCC), handed attendees an RTI document files by KSDL that outlines the fund and quality gaps.

He said that there is a misappropriation of funds. Published in KSDL’s quarterly journal ‘Indian Perfumer’, the TUCC have released the value of various aromatic and medicinal plants.

“The cost of sandalwood in India is Rs. 1.4 lakh per kilogram. But Mysore sandal soap factory imports it from Australia for Rs. 80, 000 and sell it to KSDL for 2.49 lakhs. This is looting. And then for their workers, they have nothing to give,” he said. They import it from abroad, because the raw material is cheaper there, he added.

In 2014, the KSDL Employees Union had sought an enquiry into the misappropriation of funds by the top management of the company. This time, they want an inquiry by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) and the Anti Corruption Bureau (ACB).

He added that some companies have been already blacklisted for low quality. “Even though the company Karnataka Aromas is blacklisted, the factory is still buying from them,” he said. Several tests like solubility and the specific gravity of the oil fails to match the standards set by the industry, he added.

“The older Bengalurean generations will tell you about the lovely smell and quality of the Sandalwood soap. But today, due to all these activities, it has lost its touch,” Shivkumar said.

Talking to the reporters, G.R. Shivshankar, president, KSDL Employees Union said several excess workers are left out from the government benefits. “The company can only hire 985 workers. But currently there are 1086 workers,” he said. The excess workers are on contract, and they do not get their salaries, bonuses or even leaves, he added.

The Karnataka Bonus Act 1965 states that every employer must pay an employee a bonus of 8.33 percent of the salary every year.

 However, Shivshankar said the workers haven’t been given bonuses for the last three years. Raju has not received it for the last five years.

Gurubrahma, one of the secretaries of the Trade Union Coordination Centre (TUCC),  said, “It is a very simple fact. It is easy money for them. But they do not realise that by having excess workers like this, the overall profitability comes down That slowly sinks the business,” he said.

Additionally, Shivshankar also spoke about fund and quality gaps in the sandalwood products. Government officials from KSDL denied tocomment on the issue. However, officials from Commerce and Industry Department said KSDL is an independent body and their management deals with the salaries and bonus issues.