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Bangalore troubled by industrial unrest

Three of 5 firms facing labour strikes have declared factory lockouts

Mahesh Kulkarni  |  Bangalore 

Two days after the Toyota Kirloskar Motor management declared a lockout at two of the company’s car manufacturing units in Bidadi, near here, the workers’ union on Tuesday indicated a softening of stance, appealing for an immediate lifting of the lockout and resumption of production.

Toyota’s is not an isolated case of labour unrest in the region. Bangalore’s manufacturing sector has in the past few years witnessed one of its worst phases, thanks to labour unrest in the region’s industrial hub.

ALSO READ: Car production comes to a halt at Toyota's Bidadi plants

Last year, the city’s Bosch and Parle factories faced strikes by employees. While Bosch managed to resolve the issue, Parle was forced to shut down its facility on the outskirts of Bangalore. At present, three of the five large facing labour unrest have declared lockouts at their respective factories in and around Bangalore, rendering thousands of people jobless, albeit temporarily.

Toyota, Bombay Rayon Fashions and Stumpp Schuele & Somappa declared lockouts following protests by workers demanding higher wages. Besides, workers resorted to strike at Coca-Cola’s factory to press their demands, and at agriculture machinery maker Fowler Westrup’s unit since March 12 last year for higher pay.

ALSO READ: Bosch hit by tool-down strike again

Toyota and Bombay Rayon Fashions declared lockouts simultaneously, from the first shift on Monday, while Stumpp Schuele, which makes springs, had declared a lockout from March 6.

Stumpp Schuele & Somappa’s factory on Bangalore’s Hosur Road, Koramangala, is facing labour unrest over transfer of a contract worker to some other unit since March 1. Following transfer of a contract worker by the contractor, other contract labourers protested and resorted to strike, while regular employees joined the stir from March 6. It was after this that the management decided to declare a lockout.

Bombay Rayon’s textile processing plant at Doddaballapur has since its inception faced multiple problems, including labour unrest. This year, the workers’ union at the plant demand a wage increase to the extent of Rs 22,000 a month. Though the management clarified the unit would not be able to bear the additional financial burden and urged the union lower its demand to a reasonable level, the workers refused to budge.

The executives of Bombay Rayon and Stumpp Shuele were unavailable for comments. About the former’s problems, Karnataka Employers’ Association (KEA) President B C Prabhakar said: “The management gave substantial ad-hoc increase to ensure the workmen got the benefit and the company was made to pay additional bonus after the protest by the workers. The violence on the part of the workmen has been increasing. The workmen violated the orders of the civil court restraining them from preventing free ingress and egress to the factory premises. Some of the experienced technical people even left the company over uncertain situation at the factory and threat to their personal safety. The company declared lockout from March 17.”

Another company that declared lockout at two of its factories with effect from May 17 was Toyota Kirloskar. The plants at Bidadi, near Bangalore had seen workers’ protest and a go-slow strike, which was causing damage to company property. The issue was demand for a wage revision. The employees have been demanding a hike of Rs 4,000 a month, across the board, while the management has offered to pay only Rs 3,050. The talks are stuck at present.

On the stir at Hindustan Coca Cola Beverages’ factory, the company said in a statement: “The Memorandum of Settlement dated October 18, 2010, entered into between the company and employees union expired on June 30, 2013. Several rounds of negotiations have taken place on the union’s demands and the management proposals thereon. While under discussion, the union has served notice of strike with effect from March 14, 2014. Since the parties were unable to arrive at an amicable closure, it has been referred to the deputy labour commissioner for conciliation.”

KEA’s Prabhakar says: “The above instances clearly bring out that even the workmen who are paid reasonably high wages are resorting to agitation and violence to press exorbitant demands. They don’t realise such demands could be beyond the paying capacity of units, which might become unviable, putting at risk their own jobs. Overall, the current labour scenario in Bangalore has made investors rethink their Karnataka investment plans.”

  • Permanent workers: 4,500
  • Contract workers: 400
  • Loss of car production so far: 2,000 units
  • Employees asked not to come to work till asked to: 40
  • Employees engaged by Toyota’s vendors: 15,000
  • Permanent workers: 150
  • Contract workers: 50
  • Permanent workers: 250
  • Contract workers: 40
  • Number of workers: 290
  • Number of workers: 150

First Published: Wed, March 19 2014. 00:58 IST