The Karnataka government’s efforts to resolve labour disputes in Toyota and Wistron have failed, with both companies yet to fully resume operations.
Three months after the plant was shut, the deadlock between the management and workers continues at Toyota. In the case of Wistron, the company is redoing the hiring process even for the existing workers, and it’s delayed the whole process. The task of police verification, a new requirement after violence erupted on December 12, is taking time due to limited government resources; the company is requesting the state to speed up the process.
In the case of Toyota, the state government has held high-profile meetings – at the level of chief secretary, chief minister, deputy CM and labour minister – and yet failed to solve the crisis.
Last Sunday Karnataka Congress leader Siddaramaiah met the protesting workers in Bidadi, on the outskirts of Bengaluru, and assured them support. He took digs at the deputy chief minister, CN Ashwath Narayan, who claimed the issue got resolved after his 20-minute meeting with the management. “If the issue was resolved, as the Dy CM claimed, then why are the workers still on the streets protesting?” Siddaramaiah said .
On February 2, when the issue was taken up in the Karnataka Assembly, labour minister Shivaram Hebbar said the last leg of discussions were on with the management and the issue would soon be resolved. “While the company wants to reinstate 64 workers (involved in disrupting work) upon completion of an inquiry initiated by the company, the workers want them to be reinstated immediately. This is the deadlock,” Hebbar said.
The minister said nearly 50 per cent of the workforce were back to work and the government will make efforts to ensure the work resumes completely. Meanwhile, the company issued a newspaper advertisement on January 29 saying the company, which lifted the lock-out on January 12, asked employees to sign a “good conduct” undertaking and warned workers not reporting to work in days will be deemed to have left the service. It said nearly 1,600 employees had already signed the undertaking.
In the Wistron case, while the employees are struggling without pay for the month of January, the company showed no sign of immediate reopening. The Taiwanese company suspended operations in the Narasapura Industrial Area (outside Bengaluru) after vandalism on December 2 last year.
One of the employees told The Federal that the company asked for 10 set of documents and that they would be interviewed all over again.
The document they sought include ‘character certificate’ from a gazetted officer, a police verification letter (stating they were not involved in the vandalism at the factory in December), parents’ consent letter, medical fitness certificate among other documents, along with the resumes.
“The hiring firm said they will only allow [reinstate] only 20 people a day. So we are not sure for how long we have to wait,” the worker said. Going by the estimate, even if 140 people are reinstated every day by the seven hiring firms, it will take 40 days for the work to resume completely.
Gaurav Gupta, the state’s additional chief secretary (industries), convened a meeting earlier this week to understand the roadblocks and said the company had issues related to labour relations and industrial safety, which they are trying to address and resolve at the earliest. Besides, the company, which manufactures and assembles iPhones for Apple, is yet to get a go-ahead from the latter which had initiated strict action against Wistron.
Siddaramaiah who spoke on the issue noted that while they don’t have any objection to foreign companies investing in Karnataka, they have to follow the laws of the land and treat its employees fairly. He appealed to the state government to step in and resolve issues rather than merely holding a discussion to understand the workers’ concerns.