The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Dunlop workers refuse arrears

Calcutta, April 30: The Dunlop revival process suffered a setback today when the management under new owner Pawan Kumar Ruia fell out with the workers’ unions over payment of back wages.

The management and the two leading unions, Citu and Intuc, at Dunlop’s Sahagunj factory in the state, had signed an agreement on April 9 after lengthy negotiations. According to the terms of the agreement, payment of the first instalment was scheduled today.

The management made arrangements to pay the dues at the factory this morning, but the workers refused to accept the arrears.

Some 1,500-2,000 workers converged at the factory gate and shouted slogans against the management. However, the maintenance work, which began 10 days back, was unaffected.

“They have wrongly calculated the back wages. We are not getting what has been agreed upon. So workers refused to take them,” a Citu member said.

The Ruia-led management said they were shocked by the incident but hoped the problem would be sorted out soon.

Clause 5 of the settlement says the workers will receive Rs 5,000 on April 30 (today) of their total arrears of Rs 30,000 under the one-time settlement. The payments will be made on a pro-rata basis linked to attendance.

The arrear tab of the management under the one-time settlement was Rs 12 crore for the 4,300 retired and present workers of the company.

Trouble broke out on the method used to work out the attendance of workers.

The management calculated the attendance on a daily basis, while workers insisted on the monthly criteria.

“I am not clear where the differences are. I have requested the unions to give their proposal in writing so that we can settle it fast. Has there been any mistake, we are ready to rectify it,” Ruia said at his office in a hurriedly called press conference in the afternoon.

The unions said they would submit their proposal in a day or two.

The workers said the management did not pay for the leave which was due to them. The management said that leave would be carried forward for the existing workers when the company re-opens.

“It is not a big amount we are asking for. But workers have not been paid for long and this little money means a lot. It does not send the right signal for the days ahead. There are some large payments to be made in the future. It puts a question mark on the new management,” a worker pointed out.

Ruia, however, played down the incident. “Such problems will crop up only at the beginning,” he said, adding that the unions must trust the new management.

But, clearly, the trust seems to be missing at the moment. It appears there is still a long way to go before a harmonious industrial relation emerges at Dunlop.

For Ruia, the Dunlop journey is facing some major hurdles.

The BSE is yet to give the green signal to resume trading, and Ruia plans to move court against the exchange. The BSE had suspended trading since February 2003 due to non-payment of listing fees. The shares were last traded on April 15, 2002 and was quoted at Rs 6.60, much below the par value of Rs 10.

The BSE refused to allow trading, saying the company has been referred to the Appellate Authority of Industrial and Financial Reconstruction. The listing committee of the exchange has decided to wait till the AAIFR issues its final order.

Dunlop has 35,000 retail investors. Originally in the B-1 category, the company’s share is now in the Z group, which denotes lack of regulatory compliance by firms.

The stock was listed on the Calcutta, Delhi, Chennai and Ahmedabad bourses along with the BSE.

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