Management claims inability to stick to MoU signed recently with two recognised unions on payment of bonus and incentives

A piquant situation has arisen in Neyveli Lignite Corporation with the management claiming inability to stick to a Memorandum of Understanding signed recently with two recognised trade unions on payment of bonus and incentives

.As such, the trade unions are facing the onerous responsibility of placating employees whose expectations are high as Deepavali is round the corner.

While the Labour Progressive Front (LPF) is ready to accept an ad hoc or advance payment of Rs. 30,000 for each employee, the Anna Workers and Staff Union (AWSU) is against accepting ad hoc payments and insists on implementation of the MoU.

Holding the management responsible for the impasse in resolving the issue, the LPF (affiliated to Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam) and the AWSU (affiliated to All-India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam) are jointly holding talks on launching another round of strike.

They are likely to come out with a statement by Thursday. Secretary of AWSU Rama. Udayakumar told The Hindu that on September 5, the MoU was signed with the management, providing for a hike of 143 per cent (in terms of Quarterly Plant Performance Reward and Productivity Linked Incentive) for a period of five years.

Board's refusal

However, when the management approached the NLC Board seeking its approval for the MoU, the latter reportedly felt that since the percentage of hike was too high, its validity period could be extended from five years to seven years.

Mr. Udayakumar pointed out that such a hike was nothing new as the management had already given 143 per cent hike in 2002 when its employee strength was 17,000 when its profit was just Rs. 600 crore to Rs. 700 crore.

Again in 2009, the management agreed to 143 per cent hike when the number of employees on its roll was 15,000. Now, with only about 12,500 employees and despite having achieved a profit of Rs. 1,470 crore, the management was now backtracking on the hike percentage, he charged.

If implemented, the size of the bonus and incentive payment would go up from Rs. 51,000 to Rs. 1.24 lakh per employee.

However, in the absence of any settlement on this score so far, the employees had obtained advance amount totalling Rs. 1.42 lakh each.

“Since the advance amount has to be repaid, the AWSU does not want to increase the burden on employees with another tranche of advance payment. It therefore insists that the management bring into force the latest MoU,” Mr. Udayakumar said.

LPF general secretary S. Rajavanniyan told this correspondent that it was for the management to convince the Board as it has committed to implement the MoU and the trade unions cannot own any responsibility for lapses on part of the management.

On earlier occasions, the management got the approval of the Board for 143 per cent hike, but now it claimed inability to do so.

“Therefore, as a via media, the LPF is seeking an advance payment of Rs. 30,000 per employee,” Mr. Rajavanniyan said.

Both the LPF and the AWSU have taken a firm stand that they would not agree to the seven-year validity period for the new MoU as suggested by the Board. Nor would they sign an agreement as provided under Section 12 (3) of the Labour Dispute Act (a mandatory provision for bringing into force the new settlement), both the union leaders said.

Circular soon

NLC sources said that, the management would soon come out with a circular explaining what had transpired between the management and the Board on the issue.

Meanwhile, the management was determined to inculcate discipline among employees and union leaders in terms of punching attendance and other activities, sources said.