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Workers to approach Tamil Nadu govt over job protection

Fate of plant remains uncertain, as deadline for transfer of asset to Microsoft ends on March 31

T E Narasimhan & Gireesh Babu  |  Chennai 

A day after the Supreme Court rejected Nokia’s appeal regarding the transfer of its assets to Microsoft, worker unions on Saturday considered raising the matter with the Tamil Nadu government.

Employees at Nokia’s plant here have said Microsoft should ensure their welfare by taking steps such as providing benefits and salaries. The workers added the Nokia management, too, should safeguard employees at the plant.

On Friday, the apex court had ordered Nokia to provide a Rs 3,500-crore guarantee before the company transferred the Sriperumbudur plant to Microsoft. The order upheld a lower court verdict on the plant related to an income tax dispute. The order was challenged by the Finnish company.

M Saravana Kumar, president, Nokia India Thozhilalar Sangham, said, “We thought the court would take our jobs and livelihood into account. We had approached the Delhi High Court and the Supreme Court with this hope. We are worried about our jobs.”

Union officials said now, they were planning to meet A Soundararajan, member of the Tamil Nadu Assembly and general secretary of the Tamil Nadu unit of the Centre of Indian Trade Unions. When contacted, Soundararajan told Business Standard, “We feel sad about the Supreme Court order. We think there is a lot of clarity needed in both the Delhi High Court and Supreme Court orders. All we need is a guarantee on the jobs of the employees at the plant.”

He added employees were part of the company’s assets and, according to the conditions on the bank loans, when a transaction took place, they should be part of the agreement. The court should have looked at this aspect, he said.

“We will be deciding on future action after meetings tomorrow (Sunday) or day after (Monday). We are exploring the option of approaching the state government, as labour is its responsibility. It would have an impact if the state government puts pressure on Nokia to protect the employees,” he said.

As of now, the fate of the plant remains uncertain, as the deadline for the transfer of the asset to Microsoft expires on March 31. Earlier, Nokia had said if the asset wasn’t transferred, it wouldn’t have a choice but to opt for contract manufacturing. This, however, wasn’t accepted by the workers.

The Nokia India facility in Chennai, one of the company’s largest globally, employs 8,000 people directly, half of them women, and another 25,000 indirectly.

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First Published: Sat, March 15 2014. 22:49 IST