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Hind Motors suspends work at Uttarpara plant

Press Trust Of India  |  Kolkata 

After 29 days of labour unrest, the management of C K Birla Group's Hindustan
Motors (HM) today declared the suspension of work at its Uttarpara plant in WestBengal.
The management made the declaration through a notice put up at the gate of the factory last night.
With the suspension of work, the future of 4,500-odd workers and employees at the plant has become uncertain. However, certain operations like material receivables and despatch stores were kept out of the purview of the order.
Soon after the declaration, workers of the plant affiliated to the Sangrami Shramik Karmachari Union (SSKU) began protesting in front of the gate and shouted slogans against the management's decision.
SSKU, the sole bargaining agent, has been on strike since March 13 to demand withdrawal of a freeze on dearness allowance in force for the last six years.
An HM official told PTI that the management was forced to suspend work as willing workers were prevented from entering the plant and the movement of materials was being blockaded by the striking employees.
During the month-long protest, production of Ambassador cars at the loss-making plant dwindled from 1,200 to 450. "This is not sustainable," the official said.
Reacting to the situation, West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee said he had asked the labour minister to look into the matter.
Labour Minister Mrinal Banerjee told reporters the state government was deeply concerned over the developments in Uttarpara. The labour department would shortly convene a meeting of the management of HM and five registered trade unions of the plant, he said.
"We will even call a tripartite meeting if necessary," Banerjee said.
AITUC leader Gurudas Dasgupta said the suspension of work by HM's management was illegal and urged the government to intervene in the matter.
He said the demand by the striking workers for withdrawing the freeze on dearness allowance was legitimate.
INTUC leader Subrata Mukherjee too criticised the management's action and said suspension of work was not in conformity with the Industrial Disputes Act.
SSKU president Amitabha Bhattacharya could not be contacted for comment.
Earlier, Bhattacharya had said the SSKU was not bothered if the management declared a lock-out and would continue with its protest to press for its demands.
Reacting to allegations that the payment of salaries of workers was delayed, the management of HM conceded that there was a cash flow problem as the plant was making an annual loss of Rs 20 crore.
The management said it would take some time to arrange cash for the salaries. The plant's monthly wage bill was nearly Rs 2 crore.

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First Published: Thu, April 12 2007. 00:00 IST