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Dunlop and unions seal deal

Calcutta, Jan. 24: Roadblocks on the way to Dunlop's reopening appeared to have cleared today with the trade unions reaching a verbal settlement with the Pawan Ruia management.

At a tripartite meeting chaired by commerce and industries minister Nirupam Sen, the Citu and Intuc unions of the Sahagunj unit wrested a bargain for the workers in the form of enhanced early retirement benefits and clearance of outstanding wages.

The management agreed to settle early retirement scheme (ERS) dues amounting to a maximum of Rs 1.20 lakh, to be paid at a maximum annual rate of Rs 12,000.

The management also agreed to pay outstanding dues up to Rs 30,000. For existing workers, 50 per cent of this amount would be paid within six months of the restart of production. The rest will get the money in another six months.

'We are happy that the issue has been resolved. Keeping the desperate situation of the workers in mind, we had to sacrifice at some points and could not drive a harder bargain,' Citu leader Shantasree Chatterjee said after the meeting.

The Sahagunj factory had closed down in 1998. It opened on Match 11, 2000, but shut doors again on August 20, 2001.

The new management has decided to retain the original wages, including HRA, DA and other components.

'Workers will also get a monthly increment of Rs 100 for the next three years. After completion of the first three years, an increment of 10 per cent on gross emoluments will be paid for two years. A fresh wage agreement will be executed after five years,' said Chatterjee, also the CPM MP from Serampore in Hooghly.

Ruia, who attended the meeting, said between 1,000 and 1,500 of the unit's 2,700 workers would be deployed initially.

'We're offering them the ERS on understanding that whenever we require, we'll recruit some of them,' he added.

Ruia, who took over the reins of the tyre-maker in December, said he plans to invest about Rs 200 crore in the Sahagunj unit, of which Rs 40 crore would go towards the settlement of workers' dues.

'I'm happy that a common ground has been reached. The workers' issue has been settled. We'll take about five to six months to start production,' Ruia said.

The government had to intervene in the talks after the unions failed to reach a settlement over the ERS dues and outstanding wages.

Though Sen had earlier termed Ruia's decision to retire excess workers as 'practical', he sided with the workers over outstanding dues in today's meeting.

Citu and Intuc representatives and the Dunlop management signed on the terms of today's agreement after the meeting. A formal bipartite pact would be signed around mid-February.

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