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This article was first published 8 years ago  » Business » 'We will protest till government withdraws new PF rules'

'We will protest till government withdraws new PF rules'

By Syed Firdaus Ashraf
Last updated on: April 19, 2016 21:02 IST
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'What is this new PF rule? Complete nonsense!'

'I want my PF money right now and not when I am 58 years old.'

Thousands of garment and textile industry workers came out on the roads of Bengaluru to protest against the central government's decision to amend the Employee Provident Fund Scheme.

The proposed changes bar the withdrawal of the employer's contribution to the provident fund corpus until the employee attains the age of 58 years, and was to have come into effect from May 1, 2016. However, on Tuesday, April 19, the government put off its implementation by three months, then revoked the changes altogether a couple of hours later.

Tuesday's protests in Bengaluru saw several buses set on fire, stone-pelting and police action against the perpetrators.

Prathiba R, president of the Garments and Textiles Workers Union, who led the strike, spoke to Syed Firdaus Ashraf/ about their demands. (This interview was conducted before the government revoked its decision.)

Why are the garment and textile industry workers on strike in Bengaluru?

This strike is against the central government's PF decision. They have amended the PF rules and it will affect all of us, therefore we are on strike.

Till now employees could withdraw their PF amount fully, employee's contribution as well as the employer's contribution, but this has changed with the new amendment.

As per the new amendment now an employee cannot do that, s/he can only withdraw her/his part and not the employer's part.

But this decision was announced in Budget 2016, so why are you protesting now?

We are protesting now because this was to be implemented from May 1, 2016.

Are you associated with any political party?

No, we are not associated with any political party. We are an independent trade union and affiliated with the National Trade Union Federation.

Yesterday, there were 6,000 workers. Today, 10,000 workers have come out on the roads. This protest is spontaneous.

Why are you burning buses? Why the violence?

We are not doing all that. That is being done by lumpen and anti-social elements.

So what is your demand?

We want the government to withdraw the new notification on PF which was introduced in the Budget. It is very bad for the workers.

If a worker wants to leave his job at the age of 35, s/he will have to now wait for another 23 years to get her/his own money. What is this new rule? Complete nonsense!

The government has said that in case of a medical emergency...

(Interrupts) What medical emergency? It is only for diseases like cancer. So workers should get cancer, TB and paralysis stroke to get their own money? Is this what the government wants?

Even for children's education, the government says only for medical and engineering. Are workers' children all going in for medical and engineering or what? Are they not going for other courses?

The government is grabbing workers' money.

Do you fear that workers will not get their full dues when they reach 58 years of age if they retire early?

It is possible that there is no guarantee at all. And what about the value of the rupee? If I resign from my job now and say I was supposed to be paid Rs 50,000, I will not get it immediately.

The government says I will get this Rs 50,000 when I am 58 years of age. So what will be its worth then?

Why should the government keep our PF money, that is our argument.

This move will also affect the middle class.

Yes, it will, but the workers will be affected very badly. This new rule will hit workers in Karnataka and Tamil Nadu and therefore we are protesting here.

The government says they don't want workers to blow up the money while still young, say after taking VRS (voluntary retirement scheme), but instead give it to them at the age of 58, when they will need the money most.

What VRS? We don't have any job security. I want my PF money right now and not when I am 58 years old.

Will you continue with your strike till the new PF notification is not withdrawn?

Yes, we will be on strike in spite of the fact that the government is using the police to quash our strike.

The government has just announced that they have deferred the new PF rules to July 31, 2016.

They have just postponed the decision. They will not take it back and therefore our struggle will continue.

IMAGE: Several vehicles were set on fire during the agitation when garment factory workers were protesting against the Centre's decision to amend rules governing the withdrawal of EPF contributions, in Bengaluru, April 19, 2016. Photograph: ANI

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Syed Firdaus Ashraf / in Mumbai

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