The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Unions fret over Dunlop deal

Calcutta, Jan. 17: Unions now in talks with the Dunlop management over downsizing in the Sahagunj unit today sought the government's immediate intervention, though the new dispensation claimed it was nearing an agreement on the voluntary retirement plan for the old guard.

The Citu-led Dunlop Workers' Union said the VRS package offered is unacceptable.

'We want the government to intervene immediately and hold a tripartite meeting,' said Dilip Chatterjee, Citu's Hooghly secretary.

Intuc echoed Citu and rejected the VRS offered. 'We think the workers are being exploited. The government should immediately hold a tripartite meeting to evolve a respectable retirement package for the workers,' its state president Subrata Mukherjee said.

Citu leaders involved in the talks said that according to indications, about 1,300 of the 2,700 workers will be hired again. Most of the others will be offered VRS.

'The VRS package offered to us says that a worker will get Rs 7,500 a year for the remaining or completed years in service, whichever is less. The ceiling will be Rs 75,000 and the money will be paid over three years,' a Citu leader said.

'The management has also told us in the two meetings held so far that it would engage contract workers,' he added.

Chatterjee said a large number of workers are waiting anxiously for the outcome of the talks.

Dunlop India chief Pawan Ruia today said the Sahagunj factory should be operational in six months. He met Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee at Writers' Buildings this morning and told him about his plans for the unit.

'In the initial stage, 1,000-1,300 workers will be re-employed. The rest will be either given VRS or deployed at a later stage,' he said after the meeting with the chief minister and the chief secretary.

The Sahagunj factory of the tyre manufacturer had closed down in 1998. It opened on March 11, 2000, but shut doors again on August 20, 2001.

Bhattacharjee told Ruia today to expedite the reopening.

Commerce and industries minister Nirupam Sen termed the decision to retire over a thousand workers 'practical'.

He said: 'Reopening the factory and making it run is our first priority. For this, the management will have to take whatever steps it likes but they should be practical. In any case, many of the workers have either retired or have grown old. How can they be deployed in the new circumstances'

Ruia will sign an agreement with the worker unions in a couple of days, he added.

Ruia took over the reins of the company last December and sought electricity dues and sales tax exemptions from the government. The chief minister promised to look into it.

But the new owner has refused to disburse the wage dues ' November 1997 to February 7, 1998, and January 1, 2001, to August 2001 ' at one go.

Workers have refused his offer to pay the sum, not exceeding Rs 20,000, in instalments

'I shall try to bring back senior officers and technicians who left Dunlop after it was closed,' Ruia had said earlier.

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