Chennai: The expiry of their wage agreement a year ago has forced workers of unit-2 of the Ashok Leyland manufacturing plant in Hosur to hold a series of protests. On July 28, the workers held a protest wearing badges of their demands.
This was part of the series of protest actions this month. On July 16, the workers held a demonstration demanding early settlement of wage talks, as also bonus on profits being made by the vehicle manufacturing company.
The workers of the unit claim high productivity even during the pandemic and alleged that the company was demanding a further increase in production by 10% during the wage talks.
The Hosur unit workers are basically demanding wage parity with workers of Ashok Leyland’s Ennore plant near Chennai, as well as a rise in retirement age from 58 years to 60 years.
WAGE SETTLEMENT DELAYED BY A YEAR
With the previous wage agreement expiring on July 27, 2020, the workers are seeking an early settlement.
“The management has been delaying the talks, even after one year of the expiry of the earlier agreement. We protested on July 28 to remind the management about the expiry of the previous agreement”, said a worker from the plant.
The management, however, cited the COVID-19 pandemic as the reason for the delay in initiating the talks. “But, it (the delay) seems intentional from the part of the management. After the first wave (of the pandemic) was over and even now, there has been no positive move from the management”, alleged the worker.
On July 28 morning, the workers held a protest before entering duty for their regular shift by wearing badges that listed their long pending demands.
Workers wearing badges demanding early settlement of wage talks
The workers alleged they were caught between the “insensitivities” of the management as well as the elected leadership of the Hosur Ashok Leyland (Unit II) Employees Union.
There are different unions in the unit, including Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU) and Labour Progressive Federation (LPF). The workers usually vote to elect the representative leadership.
“The union leadership in Unit I is fighting for the cause of the workers. But here, the leadership is lethargic about the interests of the workers. All trade unions in the unit, except the group led by the president of the representing union, are united in fighting the injustice of the management”, another worker said.
Workers protest on July 16, demanding the union to speed up the talks (Image courtesy: tnlabour.in)
‘PROFIT AND PRODUCTIVITY HIGH’
The workers are cut up due to the inordinate delay on part of the management to settle wage even though the company has made profits and has had high productivity.
“Unit II has manufactured 74% of the vehicles produced by the company. This is after the reduction in productivity during the first wave of the pandemic”, another worker from the unit said.
The profit of the organisation took a hit in the financial year 2020-21, with a loss of Rs 313.68 crore, after making profits of Rs 239.52 crore in 2019-20, Rs 1,983.2 crore in 2018-19 and Rs 1,713.73 crore in 2017-18. However, the company made a profit in the last quarter of FY21.
“The bonus on profit and wage agreement is for the period 2017 onward and hence the workers are entitled to receive their deserved share considering the profits made in this period. The management has no right to deny our right”, the worker said.
The management insists the workers should further increase production by 10%. “Already the workers are overworked. Further insisting on another 10% increase in productivity is not acceptable. The management can’t use such a step to silence the workers”, the worker added.
‘ENSURE PAY PARITY’
Regarding the demand for pay parity with workers of the Ennore plant of the company, a worker said: “Workers with the same experience are paid around Rs 10,000 less (in Hosur) compared with workers in the Ennore plant. This is gross injustice and should be rectified at the earliest.”
NewsClick spoke to the HR Manager of Unit II to get the company’s view on the matter. However, the manager refused to comment, saying they don't usually respond to issues related to workers’ protests.