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When the 'sound' of silence speaks...

Workers of a metal-ware company run by a US-based designer have been staging a unique wordless protest for the last five months.

india Updated: Jan 21, 2006 20:18 IST

Hoping that their silence will be more eloquent than words, 18 workers of a metal-ware company run by a US-based designer have been staging a unique wordless protest against denial of work and wages for the last five months.

Holding placards and standing on roadsides, busy marketplaces, near government buildings and outside their office building, these workers of the Okhla-based Michael Aram Private Limited want to make a quiet, powerful impact.

The workers from Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Jharkhand, engaged in making and polishing metal products, have been conducting a non-violent protest in different parts of Delhi demanding that they be paid wages, denied to them since September 2005.

They say the company has not formally terminated their services or served any notice on them.

"After working for the company for around four years, they have virtually terminated our jobs without giving prior notice. It's sheer injustice," said Rambachan, a worker and father of four from Sultanpur in Uttar Pradesh.

"We have not received any salary for the last five months and my family is finding it tough to make ends meet. My relatives are helping my family to survive and we are taking groceries and other essential commodities from a known shop on credit," Rambachan, 38, told IANS.

The company owned by Michael Aram, a US based artist and designer, produces high quality metal-ware products like tableware, cutlery and vases sold in high-end department stores, hotels and galleries.

The 18 earned a salary of about Rs.3,500 each a month from the company that has been left with 30 odd workers.

Amalakant Yadav, 39, said they had talked to Aram, who is currently in India, but he had refused to take them back.

"We had a meeting with the company owner but were told that he is running short of capital and cannot take us back," said Amalakant, who belongs to Ballia in Uttar Pradesh.

He said the workers would continue to fight for justice and carry on their protest till they got their jobs back.

Referring to police atrocities against Honda motor company's workers in Gurgaon last year, Amalakant said: "Its better to stand in silence and protest non-violently than become victims of the police's whim."

Added Rampal, another worker: "It's our strong resolve to fight our own case in a peaceful way and we will never succumb to any pressure from either the police or the company owners to accept their terms and conditions."

"It's a matter of our right and we will continue to protest till our death," said Rampal, 32.

While the workers continue with their steadfast protest, company authorities said they were harassing Aram without realising the ground realities.

"We have offered them the salary for the last five months and are even ready to pay them twice the amount. We are running short of resources and cannot take them back. They must take the money and resolve the issue and may start their own business," said S. Jacob, manager of the factory.

Jacob said in March 2005, a dispute broke out between Aram and the company's Indian director. This led to the old company that came into existence in 2000 becoming defunct.

"Now we have set up a new company and cannot take these workers back. No company runs through charity and these workers must understand the ground realities," Jacob said.

"Aram is a foreigner and they are harassing him for no reason," he added.

First Published: Jan 21, 2006 20:18 IST