Sandhya Soman

Maintenance work starts today; production to resume by August

CHENNAI: No tyres will roll out today. But more than 1,000 workers will walk into Dunlop's manufacturing unit on Monday to ready a factory that had been shut for nearly eight years.

Under the agreement arrived at between the workers and the management, workers will start "maintenance work" from April 10, said Dunlop Factory Employees Union president A. Krishnaswamy.

The company shut shop in 1998 and briefly re-opened in 2000. Ever since, the tyre major's manufacturing units in Ambattur Industrial Estate and Sahagunj (West Bengal) remained shut due to financial problems. Talks over re-opening resumed after the Kolkata-based Ruia group acquired Dunlop in 2005 from the M.R. Chhabria group. "We are supposed to start production before August 31 as per the agreement," said a buoyant Krishnaswamy. However, the intervening years saw the company's workforce of 2,000 plus coming down to 1,200. According to Mr. Krishnaswamy, 300 workers died while another 500 retired.

"Most of them have received gratuity and provident fund though much delayed. We are talking to the management so the remaining workers will also get their benefits," said Mr. Krishnaswamy.

Another 300 in "non-manufacturing" areas have been offered voluntary retirement packages. Workers such as M.V. Damodaran, 56, do not mind the 20 per cent salary cut for the next three years and other measures that come with the re-opening.

According to A. Soundarajan, CITU general secretary, "opening of the factory itself is a benefit.

Lots of people died, there are dues to be settled... but it is a good thing that an industry is reviving."