Toyota lock out continues, no sign of early solution
Bengaluru, 24 Dec.2020: Toyota kirloskar plant around in Bidadi, Bengaluru where labour unrest is going on since last one and a half month does not seem to have early solution in sight. Though, initially it was in news but after Wistron labour violence, it seems lost the priority of the Govt.
The unrest is one and half month old and is continuing since Nov.9 when workers union pressurized the management to withdraw the suspension of 70 workers. On refusal, workers went on strike and in turn management declared lock out. The workers union and management seem to have locked the horns over the issue and taken a hard stand. In plant around 6000 employees are employed where around 3500 are unionized.
Company management does not want to lift lock out unless they get assurance from workers and union that operations will be smooth and workers will work in discipline and maintain productivity, according to people know the matter.
Management had to declare a lockout as workers resorted to the sit-in strike which was “illegal” and was called to protest one of the employees suspension pending enquiry. As a part of the ‘sit-in strike’, the workers had unlawfully stayed in the company premises and had compromised COVID-19 guidelines, thereby leading to a potentially volatile situation at the factory.
According to management it initiated disciplinary action against one member, followed by 39 others who it claims were involved in a series of disruptions that violated the company rules, and had decided to place them under ‘Suspension Pending Enquiry’ on November 6 and 12 respectively. It then initiated similar action against 30 more members on December 3.
Suspension pending enquiry was “neither a punishment nor a loss of job but a standard legal measure to ensure free and fair enquiry of the misconduct of an employee by a third party enquiry officer.” It maintained that it was working to sustain plant operations and protect the interest of employees.
Although management lifted the lockout on 23 Nov. the lockout was briefly lifted on 23 November,, got around 1000 non unionized workers in after signing the undertaking of good behaviour but the unions intervened, complained to Labour Commissioner with a complaint to the Karnataka labour department that employees were being forced to sign an undertaking that they, and management again continued the lock out on the same.
The lockout continues, but management is working with a skeletal staff and 1000 workers who have signed the undertaking are helping in production operations according to sources.
On the other side, the workers’ union main allegation against the management is that they are being forced to work longer hours and are pulled up for taking short breaks. Workers’ unions say the Bidadi plant, which was producing close to 300 cars a day in two shifts, was forced to increase production by 60 cars during the pandemic.
According to union the lockout was first declared on 9 November, after a group of employees went to speak to the management the previous day about the “inhuman” working conditions. The workers alleged that the management treated them disrespectfully, and suspended one employee on “false allegations”.
For the plant operations to run smoothly & effectively, a minimum workforce of 90 per cent in each shift is required, and in view of the current situation, it is not viable to carry on with manufacturing activity with such a small number of workmen reporting to work, according to people know the development.
Toyota plant has a history of labour unrest. There have been multiple strikes and lockouts since it came up in 1997, one of which led to the formation of workers union in 2001. The last lockout was in 2014 when workers demanded a hike in pay. What is unusual this time, however, is the lockout being prolonged for as long as it has, and there being no meaningful dialogue between the union and the company management.
The Bidadi plant produces Toyota’s Innova Crysta, Camry, Fortuner and Yaris models.