Intensifying their stir, workers at the Toyota Kirloskar Motor Ltd’s two plants near Bangalore have resorted to an indefinite hunger strike outside manufacturing unit in Bidadi here.
Thirty of the over 4,000 striking workers are on hunger strike, reiterating their demand that the suspension of 30 workers be revoked and the company withdrew its demand that workers sign individual undertakings. The agitation has been on since March 24, when the company lifted an eight-day long lock-out, following which it insisted that each worker sign a 'good conduct undertaking' before returning to work. This, the TKM Employees Union, maintains is against their right to collective bargaining and a 'wholly unreasonable demand' and one designed 'to undermine the union'. Sources in the labour department said that both parties were refusing to budge, but held that the demand that individual undertakings be signed was an 'unusual one'. Three rounds of tripartite talks have been conducted by the labour department, including the successful negotiation resulting in the lifting of the lockout.
TKM Employees Union president Prasanna Kumar C. alleged that the company was using apprentices and semi-skilled contract workers to run critical processes which could compromise quality and pose hazards at the plant. Further, the union alleged that the company was hiring temporary workers.
Responding to The Hindu’s queries, a TKM spokesperson denied the allegation and said the company was working well within the law. 'It is absolutely untrue that TKM is running its plants using contract workers and apprentices. Contractor labour is only used for non-skilled operations like loading, unloading, un-packing and sorting activities.' The company refused to comment on capacity utilisation at the plant. The spokesperson said that talks are on with the state government.
When asked about the nature of the undertaking that workers are asked to sign, the spokesperson said: 'It’s mainly a commitment from the workers to follow the rules and regulations of the company. Basic discipline is the foundation for the survival of any organization.' Refusing to share numbers of suspensions, the statement added that 'there are cases of serious misconduct and suspension pending enquiries.'