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Lockout at Toyota local plants

Bangalore, March 17: Toyota Kirloskar Motor (TKM) has declared a lockout at its two plants where some workers had stopped production lines to protest a delay in salary hikes after 10 months of negotiations.

The factories near Bangalore are Toyota Motor’s only vehicle plants in India, where the Japanese manufacturer generates just a sliver of global sales.

Their closure raises the spectre of labour unrest at Indian car plants in recent years, including a 2012 dispute at Maruti Suzuki. A riot left one person dead and over 100 injured, and resulted in a $250-million production loss.

The local outfit of the world’s biggest car maker in a statement said some workers over the past 25 days had disrupted business and threatened supervisors even as the management, labour union and the state government negotiated wages.

“The company is left with no other option but to declare a lockout of the premises to ensure the safety of its workers and management personnel,” TKM said.

The subsidiary closed the factories on Sunday — a non-production day — and did not state when it would reopen them. Closure would result in a daily production loss of 700 vehicles, said Toyota Motor spokesman Naoki Sumino in Tokyo.

TKM and the union will continue holding talks to resolve the issue, Sumino said.

The lockout comes just a week after Toyota Motor gave Japanese workers their biggest pay increase in 21 years, and two months after the auto maker said social unrest in Thailand could lead it to rethink investment.

The labour unions in India dubbed the lockout illegal. “This is illegal lockout as the management has trampled on our rights,” Sateesh. R, general secretary of the Toyota Kirloskar Motor Employees Union (TKMEU), told The Telegraph today.

“We were ready for a compromise and had scaled down our original demand to more than half,” said Satheesh. The independent labour union represents 4,200 regular workers and 1,500 contract workers.

The worker-management dispute has origins in the union proposing an increment of Rs 8,500 to all workers in March 2013. “We had sought the increment for 2013-14 starting April 2013,” said Satheesh.

But after 40 meetings, the management proposed an increment of Rs 3,050. “This came as a blow to all the workers who were expecting a decent hike,” said Satheesh.

The workers, according to Satheesh, took home an average salary of Rs 22,000 plus other allowances.

“Not wanting a dispute where the workers will suffer, the union agreed to Rs 4,000 as increment for the financial year. But the management remained adamant and stuck to its offer. They even said not a paisa more,” Satheesh said.

In January, the state labour department entered the picture to end the deadlock. “There were seven tripartite meetings between the management, union and the labour department. Yet the management remains rigid,” he said.

“To tell the truth, we wanted to somehow end this and continue working. But late January, a general body of our union gave a clear mandate to call a day-long strike,” said Satheesh. The workers struck work on February 10.

The All Toyota Suppliers and Ancillary Employees Federation also joined the TKMEU in another strike on February 28.

“We wanted to send a strong message to the management that they cannot take us for granted,” said Satheesh.

“Things got worse when a supervisor manhandled a worker on the shop floor,” he said.

The union is now waiting for the minister of state of labour (independent charge), T. Parameshwar Naik, to call a meeting with the management and union.

“Workers are willing to wait as it’s a question of getting what’s ours,” he said.

Toyota executives in Calcutta said there would be no immediate effect as the shutdown is only a day old.

 
 
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