The HMT Machine Tools unit at Kalamasserry is keen on entering into an agreement with the Kochi Metro Rail Limited for manufacture of metro rail components and discussions are in progress. Talks are also being held to set up a manufacturing unit for the defence sector. While the pact with the metro rail company might take more time, the nod for the defence facility could come soon.
There are also proposals for establishing a power plant using LNG as fuel on the company premises. Another plan is to set up units in collaboration with BPCL Kochi which is undertaking a massive expansion plan worth Rs.20,000 crore.
The company managing director, M.D. Sreekumar, said the management had held talks with Union Ministers Praful Patel and K.V. Thomas. “The Kalamasserry unit has been making profits continuously while the other units in the group are not on par. This has not been rewarded by the Union government. If the unit is segregated, it can attract joint ventures and new business development projects, bringing in fresh talents. It could be a total makeover for the entire industrial area”, he said.
The company has about 400 acres of land which could be utilized for setting up units in machine tools and associated sectors. Capital infusion is one of the major challenges faced by the company.
There has been a demand from trade unions for working capital to take up expansion work. The wage structure has not been revised for over a decade and workers are on a prolonged dharna which has already exceeded 1,100 days.
The Kalamasserry unit has made a net profit of Rs.2.26 crore in 2012-13, a jump from Rs.46 lakh profit made in the previous financial year. It is in sharp contrast to the performance of the other units of HMT Machine Tools which are in the red. Apart from Kalamasserry, HMT has manufacturing units at Hyderabad, Bangalore, Ajmer and Pinjore.
The Board for Reconstruction of Public Sector Enterprises (BRPSE) has recommended operational independence for the unit. It has also mooted allotment of working capital of Rs.75 crore for 2013-14. The Union Ministry of Heavy Industries and Public Sector Enterprises has decided to appoint a commission to study the proposal. The report is expected to be submitted within two months. The BRPSE has also recommended a raise in retirement age from 58 to 60.
The workers were eagerly awaiting the report, said K. Chandran Pillai, former MP and president of National Confederation of HMT Trade Unions. The Union government has ignored the manufacturing sector in the past and the country has to depend on imports at present, he said. Every investment of Rs.1 crore in the manufacturing sector would bring in benefits worth Rs.100 crore for the country, he said.
Precious talent has deserted the company because of non-revision of wages for two decades now. The company had a strength of about 3,000 workers in its heydays till the 90s, but the present strength is below 400. The company should be able to attract talent and establish a strong R&D unit, he said.