Toyota Kirloskar Motor said that about 300 of the 4,200 union members have signed the contentious “good conduct undertaking” and have returned to work at the two plants in Bidadi, where production has been hit for about three weeks now following a lockout and an ongoing workers’ agitation.
However, the TKM Employees Union has refuted this claim and maintains that the 4,150 member-strong union remains undivided. “This is misleading. It is untrue that 300 union members have gone back to work. The individual undertakings are the main point of contention for us right now,” said Prasanna Kumar, President of the TKM Employees Union.
According to Shekar Viswananthan, Vice-Chairman and Whole Time Director at TKM, capacity utilisation at the two plants stands at about 50 per cent. The company has been running the plants, with a joint average capacity of 700 cars per day, with non-unionised members, including over 1,200 supervisory staff working in the assembly line. Addressing mediapersons, Mr. Viswanathan said that contract labour and apprentices employed at the facility was “well within legal limits”. He also denied allegations that contract labour was used on the main assembly lines.
Mr. Viswanathan said that the company’s decision to declare lockout on March 16 was precipitated by an illegal strike at the plant. “There was an illegal strike going on when production had dropped from 95 per cent to less than 70 per cent. We imposed a lockout in response to this,” he said, responding to queries regarding not having served lockout notice. The union has earlier maintained that it was being made a scapegoat.
On the unresolved wage dispute, the management maintains that it has offered a minimum hike of Rs. 3,100 per worker. “They are among the best paid employees in the industry. Which is why the hunger strike, for which we were not given any official communication, is a travesty of justice,” he said. Thirty union members are on indefinite hunger strike outside the plant in Bidadi.
N. Raja, SVP-Sales and marketing, said that the waiting list for vehicles is growing but the company is managing the crisis.