Toyota India lifts lockout, workers refuse to budge

Bangalore, March 24: The stand-off between Toyota India and its agitating employees continued as they refused to sign an undertaking for joining duty after eight-day lockout was lifted early Monday.

“As we are against giving or signing any undertaking, none of us has entered the factory for the first shift beginning 6 a.m.,” Toyota Kirloskar Motor Ltd. union president Prasanna Kumar told IANS here.

A defiant management has been insisting that the workers should be give an undertaking to abide by rules governing their work ethic and conduct.

Though, about 2,000 employees work in an eight-hour shift, about 500 of them were present at the factory gate since dawn, waiting for management to withdraw the undertaking to join duty and resume work.

“As lockout was illegal, it is for management to lift it and allow us to resume work. The undertaking is against our rights as workers. We have right to protect our interests and ensure that our welfare is not jeopardised,” Kumar said.

As the stand-off continued, the union has decided to rope in the state government to mediate with management to resolve the deadlock.

“We have sought an appointment with the labour secretary later in the day for his intervention, as the state government is legally empowered to direct the company to lift lockout unconditionally, as it (lockout) was declared illegally March 16 without the 14-day notice period,” Kumar said.

Besides company’s security guards, police personnel have been stationed to maintain law and order around the twin plants in Bidadi industrial township, about 30 km from here.

Company officials were not available or accessible to seek their views on the stand-off.

The union also alleged that 13 more workers were suspended even when management decided to lift lockout March 20.

“We learnt about the suspension of 13 more workers after the management conveyed to the state labour office that lockout would be lifted March 24. Though 30 workers have been suspended so far, 10-12 have received letters intimating their suspension,” Kumar recalled.

The workers, who are members of the trade union, were suspended March 19 for “misconduct and indiscipline”.

The management and union have agreed to adjudicate the contentious wage hike demand till normalcy was restored.

Of the 6,400 employees, about 4,000 of them are union members and the remaining 2,400 on contract in both the factories.

The 16-year-old joint venture rolls out a range of models, including Innova multi-utility vehicle, Camry sedan, Prius hybrid, Corolla Altis, Etios, Prado and Land Cruiser, with some of them imported as completely built units.

This is the second time lockout was declared after 2006 over dismissal and suspension of some employees.

Toyota holds 89 percent equity in the joint venture with the remaining 11 percent by the Pune-based Kirloskar group.

IANS