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Hyundai India Plagued By Labour Problem

2010

The sit-in agitation by a section of Hyundai workers in Chennai has entered the second day. Even as the concilation meeting is happening before the labour commissioner this morning, with both the union and the management at loggerheads, things are going from bad to worse, with the union obstinate in its demand to reinstate 67 of their dismissed employees and the management showing reticence to oblige, suffering huge production loss in the process. The management was spot on in coming out with a press statement stating the strike as illegal. The press note, released by the Hyundai India management yesterday says: "Hyundai Motor India is again facing labour problems at its Sriperumbedur plant, outside Chennai. The unrecognised union under the aegis of HMIEU called for the strike as it is agitating for the re-instatement of dismissed employees. In fact, Hyundai India had signed a MoU with HMIEU in the presence of the Labour Minister of Tamil Nadu and other State government officials whereby it had agreed to reinstate 20 of the 87 dismissed employees after a case by case review. The company had fulfilled its commitment and re-instated 20 of these employees on humanitarian grounds". The press note goes on to add: "HMIEU is now demanding the reinstatement of the remaining 67 employees, dismissed for gross misconduct leading to damage of company property and violence against fellow workers. Currently, conciliation pertaining to labour issues are pending before the Deputy Commissioner of Labour 11, Chennai and the next date for conciliation meeting is on June 8, before the Commissioner of Labour. HMIEU has initiated this sit in strike even before the conciliation proceedings are over. Hence, the current strike is in violation of the orders of the District Munsif

cum Judicial Magistrate, Sriperumbedur which prohibits any unlawful activity within the factory and within 100 metres radius of the factory premises". According to the release, as a result of the sit-in strike by around 150 workers the management of Hyundai India is forced to suspend its production from yesterday, resulting in a loss of 2200 cars with a value of around Rs 65-crore. Furthermore, the Hyundai India management has sought State government intervention and has also approached the Commissioner of Labours office for an early settlement to the dispute.Hyundai India has employed around 10,000 people in its Chennai factory with a production capacity of 600,000 units a year. Even as the management is sticking to its stated position, the union members have a different version to say. According to an IANS report, the strike by workers at the Hyundai India plant in Chennai to demand the reinstatement of 67 dismissed colleagues and recognition of their union continued continued for the second day today. The report quotes A Edison Periera, President of Hyundai Motor India Employees Union as having said: "Our members are continuing their sit-in strike since Sunday midnight. Many of them have not taken food since Sunday night. One worker fainted Monday and was taken to the hospital. The management has declared leave for the first shift today (Tuesday)". The agency report further quotes K Thangapandian, Vice President of HMIEU as saying: "The management started flexing its muscle by suspending four more workers and that was one of the reasons for us going on strike". It may be recalled that HW Park, Managing Director of HMIL and Chief Executive had last month ruled out reinstating the dismissed workers, by citing the reason that the government was yet to confer the status of 'public utility' on the company as agreed at the time of setting up the plant a decade ago. According to Thangapandian: "The union was about to go on strike in January when the South Korean President Lee Myung-bak, a former Hyundai Motor employee, was on a state visit, but deferred it as the management then promised to consider their demands. As per the agreement between the union and the management reached on Jan 20, 2010 reinstatement of 67 dismissed workers has to be considered on a case-by-case basis. The management agreed to take back 35 dismissed workers. It also agreed that talks on recognition to the union will be held and both the parties - the union

and the management - will work cordially to resolve the issues. But the management has backtracked on its commitments". According to the company officials, "The strike has come at a wrong time as its two plants were shut down last month for maintenance May 24-June 3 and production resumed only on June 4. The factory has around 1,650 permanent workers, 2000 casual labourers, 1500 apprentices, 1000 Hyundai trade apprentices and 1200 technical trainees. The current strike at the Irrungattukottai plant is in violation of the orders of the district munsif-cum-judicial magistrate, Sriperumbedur, which prohibits any unlawful activity within the factory and within 100 metres radius of the factory premises". Thangapandian, in turn had stoutly defended the union's decision to go in for a strike. "This is a legal strike. We had given strike notice on May 5 itself", he added. Recurrence Last year, the workers had gone on a six-day strike protesting the wage agreement the management had negotiated with a workers committee. The State Labour Minister TM Anbarasan brokered peace and HMIL and HMIEU signed an agreement. As per the agreement, the company took back 20 of the 87 dismissed employees. It did not agree with the union's demand to absorb the other 67. Meanwhile, Hyundai Motor India Ltd has resorted to direct negotiations with the dismissed workers and offered them compensation. Last month, the company settled the claims of two dismissed workers and had said the process is on in settling the accounts of 20 more. The company alleges that the HMIEU is preventing the workers from signing the direct settlement and the union is denying the allegation and asserting that taking back the rest of the fired workers only could resolve the issue.