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MUMBAI : Cash-strapped companies are resisting demands by blue-collar contract workers for better pay, healthcare and living quarters to shift from one state to another, forcing recruiters to look further afield for festive season hires.

Recruiters said workers’ needs are clashing with the budgets of retail, fast moving consumer goods (FMCG), manufacturing and logistics firms which need to get large numbers of blue-collar workers onboard for the upcoming festive season.

Recruiters said they are now scouting for candidates in places that are hundreds of km away—such as Thirunelveli, Thoothukudi and Vellore for work in Chennai—while asking firms to improve their budgets to meet the surge in festive season demand.

Take the case of recruitment firm CIEL HR Services which had to provide 100 workers for a Gujarat-based tyre manufacturing and had shortlisted candidates from Madhya Pradesh.

“Only 30 joined and the client wanted them urgently because the company’s clients are expecting big sales of their cars during Diwali," said Aditya Narayan Mishra, director and CEO at Ciel HR Services.

“Inflation has increased and that has impacted cost of living. Concerns over covid-related health crisis play in their minds if they are in a new place. But companies are tight-fisted too, and there is not much change in the fixed pay," Mishra said.

The workforce in these cases are mainly temporary staff who are hired in large numbers during the festive season from August to January.

They work in factories, shop floors, sales, retail outlets and delivery services. The hiring is expected to surge 20% after two years of a pandemic-related lull in offline sales.

According to Alok Kumar, senior director, Manpower, a subsidiary of ManpowerGroup, demand for last mile delivery, retail and warehouse-based workforce will cross 3 million this festive season.

“This year, offline stores are expecting customers now that most are vaccinated. But getting people to the jobs is a challenge, since many migrant workers have moved back to their home towns and do not want to come back to the large cities," said Kumar.

He explained that over the last two years, smaller towns have seen their economies build up as many white-collar employees moved away from the cities and that this meant there is work in those towns and cities as well.

“There is a demand from the smaller cities for jobs too, and the migrant workforce will take up these jobs more willingly," Kumar said.

According to recruitment firms, salaries during this time range from 10,000 to 20,000 a month and many firms offer incentives for extra hours or meeting sales targets.

“Mobility of workforce has been a challenge but in the post-covid world, workforce is particular about hostels, hygiene and will want higher salaries which many FMCG and retail chains won’t be able to meet," said Rituparna Chakraborty, co-founder and executive vice-president of TeamLease Services, a recruitment company.

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