In a letter addressed to the ministry of food processing industries and the empowered committee on supply chain & logistics, FMCG firms have raised their concerns of lack of available labor. India’s top consumer goods companies like HUL, Nestle, PepsiCo, Parle Products, Britannia, ITC and Mondelez have shared that they wish to hire more to be able to produce more.
They want clearances to run facilities with a 75% cap on worker deployment in green and orange zones, and a 50-60% cap in red zones (excluding containment areas). The current cap is 33%.
The letter has also sought relief from the Factories Act and requested that governments clear 12-hour work days with overtime pay, against the stipulated eight hours, in all states. It says this should be done with the consent of workers, and that overtime will be paid in proportion to normal wages. State responses to overtime have not been uniform. Punjab, Madhya Pradesh and Haryana have said they allow overtime, while others have not taken a stand.
Parle Products category head Mayank Shah said, “We are still operating at 60-65% capacity; production has to be increased to fulfil consumer demand which is growing very rapidly.”
Labour availability is still a major issue even in green and orange zones and this needs to be addressed with state labour secretaries as local police permissions are extremely difficult to obtain in states like Punjab and Himachal Pradesh, the letter said.
Many wokers have either gone back to their villages and hometowns as lockdown begun. The ones who are available face the challenge of getting permissions. Amid lockdown and the scare of the novel coronavirus the FMCG companies have had the biggest challenge of maintaining a regular supply of all essentials. Now as the consumer demand grows they find it difficult to maintain the supply with strict policies and lack of available labor. How the government responds to the demands of the FMCG and what policy changes it introduces to help them without compromising labor's safety and health is to look forward to.