In what could be a major setback for the management of Toyota Kirloskar Motor Private Ltd, the Karnataka government has issued an order prohibiting a lockout at both the car factories in Bidadi, about 35 km from here.
The management withdrew the lockout at its plants on March 24 on the condition that workers sign a good conduct undertaking before returning to work.
However, the state government has construed that as a continuation of the lockout and prohibited even the conditional arrangement under Section 10(3) of the Industrial Disputes Act in its order.
The state government, while asking the management and the workers’ union to restore normalcy, referred on Saturday for adjudication the matter pertaining to the charter of demands from the workers.
The company said, “The signing of the undertaking has not been declared illegal. This matter, along with other relevant issues, has been referred to the court for adjudication. The government has requested the company and union to restore normalcy in operations immediately. In these circumstances, it is important for the union and company to comply with and facilitate the execution of the government’s order.”
The Toyota Kirloskar Motor Employees Union (TKMEU) has welcomed the government decision on prohibiting the lockout.
“We are happy that our stand is endorsed by the state government. We welcome the government decision of referring the issues for adjudication,” said R Satish, general secretary.
TKMEU is yet to decide on when to return to work.
“We have called a general body meeting in Bidadi on Monday to take the collective opinion of our members on when to go back to work because the management has suspended 30 of our members. Based on the collective decision of the general body, we will decide,” Satish said.
The Indian arm of the Japanese vehicle maker imposed a lockout at both its car plants from March 16, arguing a section of workers could damage company property and harm other employees. Subsequently, it lifted the lockout and asked workers to sign the undertaking.
Workers have refused to sign the undertaking and launched a relay hunger strike instead.
The lockout stands to be lifted with effect from Saturday. The issue will now be heard at the Industrial Disputes Tribunal, TKMEU has said.
“It is a win-win situation for both the management of Toyota and the workers’ union because both will benefit in the event of restarting regular production at the factory. The workers will stand to get their jobs and wages and the company can restart its regular production and sales,” said B C Prabhakar, president, Karnataka Employers Association.
The management had pressed into service its management staff, contract workers and apprentices to continue limited production. As a result, daily production had slipped to about 300 vehicles against 700 before the lockout.